Eagles stay grounded in approach to finals

They’re fast shaping as the fairytale story of the AFL season, but West Coast are doing their best to keep things boring as they gear up for an assault on the flag.

The Eagles are a chance to finish on top of the table after beating the Western Bulldogs by 77 points on Sunday.

With Fremantle starting to struggle and reigning premiers Hawthorn showing signs of weakness, the Eagles have a great chance to snare this year’s premiership.

The situation is in stark contrast to earlier this year, when some pundits predicted West Coast would finish in the bottom four after they lost key defenders Mitch Brown and Eric Mackenzie to season-ending knee injuries.

West Coast have already secured a top-four finish, and they will cement a home qualifying final with victory over the in-form Crows in Sunday’s clash at Adelaide Oval.

Despite the growing hype surrounding West Coast’s flag chances, ruckman Callum Sinclair said the players weren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“Externally you might hear a few things, but internally it’s pretty boring,” Sinclair said on Monday.

“We just kind of stay focused on this week.

“When you start to worry about outcomes like that, then that’s when you start playing poorly.”

Fremantle’s loss to North Melbourne on Sunday means West Coast are now just two points adrift of top spot, paving the way for them to win the minor premiership.

But they’ll need Fremantle to lose to either Melbourne or Port Adelaide in the final two rounds for that to occur.

Defender Jeremy McGovern is a strong chance to return against the Crows after recovering from his latest hamstring setback.

Midfielder Scott Selwood (ankle) and premiership defender Sam Butler (hamstring) will also push for recalls.

The form of ruckman Nic Naitanui has played a key role in West Coast’s transformation from pretenders to contenders this year.

Naitanui was a colossus against the Bulldogs on Sunday, tallying 14 disposals, 48 hit-outs, six clearances, and a goal to set the tone for the demolition.

The match was Naitanui’s first since the death of his mum earlier this month.

“As a group we were all devastated for him,” Sinclair said of Naitanui’s recent heartbreak.

“No words can explain how important he is to us. Particularly in that first quarter, he was a man on a mission.

“There’s only one Nic Nat.”

Sinclair was the club’s third-choice ruckman behind Naitanui and Scott Lycett at the start of the year.

But the 25-year-old has now established himself as a key cog in West Coast’s premiership drive, with his ability to play in the ruck and up forward giving the team vital flexibility.

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