West Coast coach Adam Simpson admits Sunday’s clash with North Melbourne is his AFL club’s most-important game of the season as the Eagles attempt to end their losing run against finals contenders.
The Eagles entered round 16 just one win adrift of second spot, despite failing to beat a single top-eight side so far this season.
West Coast have a chance to bury that hoodoo against the seventh-placed Kangaroos at Domain Stadium.
A loss to North Melbourne would severely dent West Coast’s top-four hopes and, in turn, their premiership ambitions, but a win could set up their tilt at making back-to-back grand finals.
Simpson is reluctant to talk about his team’s top-four chances but is quick to acknowledge the importance of Sunday’s match.
“Every game is important. This one is our most-important one,” Simpson said.
“Where are we at? We’ll find out a bit this week.
“They (North Melbourne) are in full contention for going all the way this year. The brand they play is built for finals.
“We’ve had some really good battles with them of late.
“Last time we played them here (in the 2015 preliminary final) was a good result for us.
“It’s a combative finals-type brand of football they play. That’s the exciting part for us.”
Sunday’s game is equally important for North, who have slid from first to seventh after losing four of their past five games.
The Kangaroos will again be without Jarrad Waite (hip) and Daniel Wells (calf), while the Eagles have been boosted by the return of small forward Josh Hill from tonsillitis.
West Coast’s inability to beat premiership contenders this year has been a big talking point.
Simpson has put on a brave face while fielding questions about it from week to week but he says it’s time for the team to show their true colours.
“For us to have any success this year, we have to beat sides above us – that’s a given,” he said.
WEST COAST’S 2016 RECORD AGAINST TOP-EIGHT SIDES:
* Rd 2 – Lost to Hawthorn by 46 points at the MCG
* Rd 5 – Lost to Sydney by 39 points at the MCG
* Rd 7 – Lost to Geelong by 44 points at Simonds Stadium
* Rd 11 – Lost to the Bulldogs by 8 points at Etihad Stadium
* Rd 12 – Lost to Adelaide by 29 points at Domain Stadium