West Coast are set to put their faith in two-game defender Tom Barrass as they attempt to quell the Western Bulldogs’ talented forward line in Sunday’s top-four showdown at Domain Stadium.
With Will Schofield set to miss up to two weeks with a hamstring injury, Barrass is the only key defender fit for selection this week.
Jeremy McGovern (hamstring) is still about two weeks away from resuming, while Mitch Brown (knee), Eric Mackenzie (knee), and fellow big Fraser McInnes (hamstring) are all done for the season.
Barrass made a solid debut in the round 17 win against Sydney, but he was dropped after struggling against Gold Coast a week later.
The 19-year-old is set to be rushed back this week to help tame the likes of Bulldogs key forwards Stewart Crameri, Jarrad Grant, and Jake Stringer.
The Bulldogs also have the luxury of being able to recall prized recruit Tom Boyd if they want to load up on talls.
Sunday’s match will go a long way towards deciding the make up of the top four, with the Bulldogs only percentage ahead of the fifth-placed Swans.
West Coast will enter the match without midfielder Chris Masten, who was handed a two-match suspension after being found guilty of biting Fremantle’s Nick Suban during a spiteful western derby win.
Small forward Jamie Cripps is also in doubt after copping an elbow to the jaw from Dockers defender Alex Silvagni, who was suspended for four weeks.
Scans cleared Cripps of a fractured jaw, but the Eagles have given him a few days off to help him shake off the lingering headaches.
In a dose of good news for the Eagles, Mark LeCras returns from suspension, while ruckman Nic Naitanui is also set to play after missing the past two matches following the death of his mum.
Naitanui’s return offsets the loss of Scott Lycett, who will miss four weeks after straining his posterior cruciate ligament.
Schofield has been one of West Coast’s most consistent players this season, regularly shutting down the opposition’s best forward.
His absence, along with McGovern’s, leaves West Coast vulnerable heading into crunch games against the Bulldogs and Adelaide (away).
Although coach Adam Simpson concedes his defence has been ravaged by injuries, he said their spirit allowed them to punch above their weight.
“They’re playing in a way that’s united. They play together,” Simpson said.
West Coast’s shock win over Fremantle has put them in the box seat to secure second spot, but any slip-ups from this point will allow Hawthorn to snare a home qualifying final.