Tagging is a dirty word at West Coast – and that spells good news for Hawthorn AFL star Sam Mitchell.
Mitchell cut West Coast to shreds five weeks ago, with the gun midfielder tallying 36 disposals and nine clearances to inspire his side to a 14-point win in Perth.
The Eagles are desperate to avoid a repeat of that situation in Friday night’s qualifying final at Domain Stadium.
But coach Adam Simpson is also reluctant to sacrifice one of his players to merely play a tagging role.
Instead, West Coast are set to back their in-form midfield brigade in what shapes as an enticing head-to-head battle against Hawthorn’s premiership stars.
“He’s a good player. He’s hard to stop,” Simpson said of Mitchell.
“He did get away from us last time. But I’m not necessarily thinking that if you tag him, it’s going to stop that.
“Quite often, it pulls apart other areas that makes you even more vulnerable.”
Simpson can remember only one occasion this season when he’s used a hard tag.
That was to stop Carlton star Chris Judd in round two after the midfielder made a hot start to the match. Judd’s influence dropped off dramatically once the tag was put in place after quarter-time.
But Simpson doesn’t think the tactic would work as well on Mitchell.
“He’ll work out ways to manipulate and expose whoever he plays on,” Simpson said of Mitchell.
“I’ve seen it first hand. His greatest strength is his mind. So it’s hard to stop with a physical presence.”
West Coast will bank on the likes of ruckman Nic Naitanui, Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis, Elliot Yeo, Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey to give them a midfield edge.
But speedster Chris Masten will miss Friday’s match because of a hamstring injury.
Hawthorn have plenty of match-winners of their own through the midfield, with Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis and Brad Hill all part of their on-ball brigade.