Eagles don’t need top-four for AFL flag

West Coast veteran Quinten Lynch is adamant the Eagles are good enough to create AFL history and win the flag even if they fail to secure a prized top-four berth.

With just three rounds remaining, the fifth-placed Eagles sit a game and sizeable percentage adrift of fourth spot, meaning they might have to make do with fifth or sixth place.

Under the current finals format, no team has won the premiership from outside the top four.

Adelaide won the flag from fifth spot in 1998, but that was under a system where the teams who finished fifth and sixth weren’t necessarily eliminated if they lost in the first round of the finals.

That is no longer the case, with only teams placed in the top four guaranteed a double chance in the first week of the finals.

In 1998, Adelaide lost to Melbourne in week one of the finals, before beating Sydney, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne to win the premiership.

West Coast’s forward set-up has been decimated by injuries this year, with Mark LeCras (knee) and Mark Nicoski (hamstring) ruled out for the season.

But the imminent return of spearhead Josh Kennedy has sparked renewed hope the Eagles might have enough firepower to match it with the AFL heavyweights come finals time.

Lynch described last Friday’s five-point win over Geelong as a vital morale booster, and claimed the Eagles would be confident of beating anyone come finals time if they can rediscover their top form over the coming weeks.

“I definitely believe we can, 100 per cent,” Lynch said.

“When we play our best footy, we’re very hard to beat.

“I wouldn’t say we’re back yet, but we’re definitely building towards getting back to our best form.

“I believe that if we can get back to playing our best footy, with the whole team on the one page, we can give the finals a real shake.”

West Coast made it all the way to the preliminary final last year, and wingman Andrew Gaff said confidence remained high in the group despite a recent lean trot that included heavy losses to Sydney, Adelaide and Fremantle.

“We think – and other coaches have said it as well – that this is the year where anyone can win it,” Gaff said.

“Geelong are sixth and they won the flag last year, so they can beat anyone.

“We feel the same as well. We’re very confident going into the finals series wherever we finish.”

West Coast should encounter few problems taking care of Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Sunday.

But tough matches against fourth-placed Hawthorn and third-placed Collingwood in the final two games of the home-and-away season will give the Eagles a good guide as to how they’re faring.

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