Belief growing as Eagles approach finals

West Coast forward Jack Darling is confident his fledgling team won’t wilt as they gear up for a serious tilt at the AFL flag.

The Eagles are guaranteed to play finals for the first time since 2012 after losing just four of their opening 19 games.

And should West Coast win their remaining three matches, they will finish in the top two – giving them two home finals.

The Eagles showcased their premiership credentials with a 24-point win over ladder-leading Fremantle on Sunday.

And although West Coast missed the finals in the previous three years, Darling said the September experiences of 2011 (preliminary final) and 2012 (semi-final) held the team in good stead.

“We’ve matured now,” Darling said.

“We’re getting to the age, especially (Andrew) Gaff and I, where it doesn’t really matter what stage we’re on.

“You don’t get overwhelmed by the crowd or anything like that.”

“Our game style now is good. It stands up pretty well against the better sides.

“There’s lots of belief. Football’s a real mental game. If you turn up, you can beat anybody.”

West Coast’s top-two hopes will receive a major test on Sunday when they take on the in-form Bulldogs at Domain Stadium.

The match will mark Darling’s 100-game milestone – an achievement that was delayed by several months after he missed the first 10 games of the season because of a serious foot injury.

“At one point there I was struggling to get back into a good block of training,” Darling said.

“So to play nine straight games now – I’m pretty happy with that result.

“We just took a real conservative approach.”

West Coast snared Darling with a bargain pick of No.26 in the 2010 national draft.

The 23-year-old was already being touted as a future star during his first year in the AFL, and he has continued to flourish since that time.

His ferocious tackling and relentless pressure is highly regarded within Eagles’ headquarters, and his ability to take contested marks is another feature of his game.

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