West Coast coach Adam Simpson is adamant his players aren’t getting cocky heading into Saturday night’s AFL preliminary final against North Melbourne.
The Eagles will start as hot favourites at their Domain Stadium fortress, with few people giving the eighth-placed Kangaroos a chance of victory.
Two-time premiership coach Denis Pagan has warned the Eagles their flag hopes could go up in smoke if they are already looking ahead to the grand final.
But second-year coach Simpson said his charges were firmly focused on the task at hand.
“I’m not buying into that and our players aren’t either,” Simpson replied when asked about his team’s white-hot favouritism.
“I don’t think we have earned the right to get ahead of ourselves.
“There are no favourites in prelims.
“Finals are completely different.”
Simpson was spotted watching Hawthorn’s open training session on Thursday afternoon at Domain Stadium.
But he denied he had fallen into the trap of thinking ahead to the grand final.
“This is where I work. If there’s a team training, I’ll go watch them if I’m allowed to,” Simpson said.
“It was an open session. I’m not pre-empting anything. I was here, so I went upstairs and watched them train.”
The Eagles unveiled seven finals debutants when they beat Hawthorn two weeks ago in the qualifying final.
Simpson said his side’s lack of finals experience meant they were still a tad unpredictable.
“We are definitely the new kids on the block – we are the least-experienced team in the prelim,” Simpson said.
“And that does count for something in terms of experience, but I don’t think it will be to the point where we’re overawed.
“There’s a little bit of the unknown for us, and that’s fine. It’s all part of how we grow as a club. I haven’t seen too many changes in the players this week.”
Simpson expects North Melbourne tagger Ben Jacobs to get the job on Luke Shuey or Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis.
Shuey was forced to wear a moon boot last week to protect his injured foot, but the 25-year-old trained strongly this week, showing he was ready to fire against the Roos.
North Melbourne’s giant forward line looms as the biggest threat to the Eagles, who have been undersized in defence all season following injuries to Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown.
The ruck battle between All-Australian Kangaroo Todd Goldstein and West Coast’s Nic Naitanui will also prove crucial in deciding the outcome.
West Coast have been boosted by the return of Priddis and Chris Masten from injury, while the Kangaroos have recalled fit-again defender Robbie Tarrant.
Simpson won two premierships during his 306-game career with North Melbourne, and also captained the club for four years.
But the 39-year-old said he didn’t have mixed feelings as he attempted to knock his former club out of the premiership race.