West Coast are putting their faith in a “banged-up” Scott Lycett to quell North Melbourne giant Todd Goldstein in Sunday’s crunch AFL clash at Domain Stadium.
The Kangaroos (10-4) are in danger of slipping from premiership contention following four losses from their past five games, while West Coast (9-5) also have little margin for error as the race for top-four spots heats up.
Both sides enter Sunday’s match with concerns.
The Kangaroos’ key indicators have been ugly reading over the past month, with their contested possessions, clearances, and scoring efficiency all tumbling during the team’s lean patch.
The continued absence of Daniel Wells (calf) and star forward Jarrad Waite (hip) have further hampered their cause.
West Coast have struggled around the clearances since Nic Naitanui was injured last month, and it looms as an area that could make-or-break their victory hopes on Sunday.
Lycett barely trained this week after pulling up sore from the round 15 win over Essendon.
But the 23-year-old will be forced to shoulder the bulk of the ruck load against Goldstein, with defenders Mitch Brown and Jeremy McGovern flagged as his back-ups.
“Scotty has been a bit banged up from last week but he’s OK,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said.
“Scotty normally rucks 40 per cent of the game with Nic there.
“Now he’s going to 70-80 per cent. Trying to build that up is important for us as well because it’s going to be a few weeks before we get Nic back.
“It’s just how long can you do it for.”
Brown struggled in the back-up ruck role against the Bombers, while exposing McGovern to ruck duties comes with a big injury risk.
West Coast welcomed back goalsneak Josh Hill (tonsillitis) at the expense of Jackson Nelson, while the Kangaroos axed Robin Nahas for Jed Anderson.
Kangaroos skipper Andrew Swallow will notch his 200-game milestone on Sunday, with the West Australian keen to avenge his team’s preliminary final loss to West Coast last year.
North Melbourne led the Eagles by 20 points at quarter time in that match, before West Coast powered to the 10.20 (80) to 7.13 (55) win.
Eagles defender Sam Butler will reach his 150-game milestone, 12 years after making his AFL debut.
“Dealing with a lot of injuries – it takes a special type of player to continue to rock up every week and perform,” Simpson said.
“I’m really happy for him.”