Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis says West Coast will be bracing themselves for a manic Western Bulldogs outfit when the two AFL sides lock horns in Thursday night’s elimination final at Domain Stadium.
The Bulldogs started the season in scintillating fashion, winning 12 of their first 16 games.
But they’ve limped to the line since then, losing to St Kilda, Geelong, and Fremantle in their past six matches.
A 20-point loss to lowly Fremantle was particularly alarming, with most pundits now writing off their flag chances.
But with up to five stars set to return for the Bulldogs on Thursday night, Priddis said the Eagles were expecting a fierce contest.
“The first 18 weeks of the year, they were the best contested ball winning team – No.1 for pressure,” Priddis said.
“So we’re planning for them to get back to their best, manic pressure.”
The Bulldogs are set to be bolstered by the return of Tom Liberatore (ankle), Easton Wood (ankle), Jordan Roughead (calf), and Jack Macrae (hamstring) from injury.
And forward Jake Stringer appears certain to earn a recall following two solid hitouts in the VFL.
The Eagles are expected to name ruckman Scott Lycett despite his ongoing battle with a left knee injury.
In contrast to the Bulldogs, West Coast enter the finals in the hottest of form after disposing of premiership hopefuls GWS, Hawthorn, and Adelaide in their past three matches.
Even the loss of star ruckman Nic Naitanui failed to halt the Eagles’ charge, although their sixth-placed finish means there’ll be no margin for error during the finals.
Under the current finals format, no team has won the flag from outside the top four.
But Priddis said the Eagles believed they had the potential to buck that trend.
“I think this year it can be done,” Priddis said.
“It’s been one of those years where it’s been so even. You saw Adelaide go from second to fifth in one week.
“The week off going into finals, it takes away a bit of the advantage the top two sides get by winning that first week. Everyone’s going in pretty fresh. That will be enough to shake it up.”
Priddis has played just nine finals matches during his decorated 218-game, 11-season career and the 31-year-old is urging his teammates to treasure the opportunity they’ve got ahead of them.
“When you look at your career, any finals win is a career highlight. They are very special moments,” Priddis said.