The return of champion midfielder Matt Priddis looms as a key element for West Coast, as they strive to prove their AFL flag credentials by ending an away drought and winning at the SCG for the first time this century.
Both Sydney and the Eagles have a 3-1 record going into Saturday’s match at the SCG, a venue the visitors haven’t played at for six years.
The Eagles shortened their ground at training this week to try to simulate conditions at the Sydney ground, where they have lost five straight and last won in 1999.
One question mark against the Eagles is their failure to win any of their past four away games stretching back to last season.
A draw with lowly Brisbane was followed by crushing losses away to Adelaide and to Hawthorn in the grand final.
Another big MCG loss to the Hawks in round three this season means the SCG match looms as a litmus test of the Eagles’ ability to beat a quality side on the road.
“I think we’ve travelled pretty well in the past. It’s probably just been our last three or four times haven’t been ideal,” Eagles midfield coach Brady Rawlings said on Friday at the SCG.
“It’s just getting back to what we do well as a team and that’s winning the contest and getting supply to our forward line.”
Sure to help in that area will be 2014 Brownlow Medallist Priddis, who returns after missing one match with a groin injury.
“A tight ground and a contested game suits him down to the ground, I would have thought,” Rawlings said.
Priddis has played just once at the SCG.
“We’ve got to make sure we can nullify his inside ball use and get ‘Joey’ (Josh) Kennedy and ‘Parks’ (Luke Parker) going to work on him,” said Swans’ co-captain and midfielder Kieren Jack, who on Friday signed a three-year contract extension.
Rawlings said Eric Mackenzie, Jeremy McGovern, Brad Sheppard and Will Schofield could all spend time on Lance Franklin, who had bagged four goals in each of the Swans’ first four games.
“Obviously, Eric will be on him at stages, but I think if we lock in the one person, it could be our downfall,” Rawlings said.
Former Eagles ruckman Callum Sinclair and 2012 Swans premiership player Lewis Jetta will line up against their former clubs for the first time.
Sinclair returns after missing one game with a foot infection, while the Eagles get Sharrod Wellingham back for his first senior game of the campaign.