Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis says West Coast are bracing for a manic Western Bulldogs outfit on Thursday night, but they’ll have to do it without speedy winger Lewis Jetta.
Jetta has been ruled out of the elimination final at Domain Stadium after straining his calf at training earlier this week.
The injury is a heartbreaking setback for Jetta, who had shown promising signs since being recalled to the senior side last month.
The former Swan has been replaced by makeshift ruckman Mitch Brown in the only change to West Coast’s line-up.
West Coast say Jetta is a chance to return later in the finals if the Eagles advance past the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have rolled the dice on the selection front, recalling five players.
Tom Liberatore (ankle), Easton Wood (ankle), Jordan Roughead (calf) and Jack Macrae (hamstring) all return from injury.
And forward Jake Stringer has earned a recall following two solid hit-outs in the VFL.
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 writing off their flag chances.
But Priddis said West Coast were expecting a fierce contest, especially considering the star power the Bulldogs have been able to recall.
“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 Eagles named ruckman Scott Lycett despite his ongoing battle with a left knee injury.
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 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.