Last year’s grand finalists West Coast risk missing the AFL finals if they don’t find form quickly after suffering an upset 19-point loss to Collingwood.
The Eagles, faced with a challenging run to September, desperately needed to bank four premiership points at the MCG on Saturday.
Instead, they were outplayed by a side out of the finals equation, and were thumped 47-28 in clearances and beaten 13.13 (91) to 11.6 (72).
West Coast now confront Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn and Adelaide.
They are unlikely to slip outside the top eight but, as coach Adam Simpson points out, that’s far from impossible.
“Every game is big for us. We’re still fighting for a top-eight spot,” Simpson said.
“We will have to rely on other sides (if the Eagles keep losing).
“We need to keep winning. Otherwise, what’s the point?
“It’s not a lost cause … we’ve got to be confident, got to be optimistic.
“But there’s also the sense of reality, too, so we’ve got to work our way through it.”
Saturday’s result was all the more remarkable because Collingwood forward Darcy Moore – arguably best on ground in the first two quarters – hurt his hamstring and played no part in the second half.
Collingwood were simply too hard and too desperate, headlined by a club-record tally of 119 tackles.
“Our ability to not give up and still fight for the season has got to be as strong as it ever has,” Simpson said.
“We’re probably more concentrating on our mindset … rather than ladder position.
“We’re still very much alive but we’ve got to get our heads around what we need to work on.”
That list is reasonably long.
Simpson lamented the way his charges folded at critical moments, easy goals from stoppages and how fragile the Eagles looked in early defence.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui was sorely missed, with Brodie Grundy helping himself to 45 hitouts.
Simpson was upbeat Naitanui would return from injury against the Dockers.
“We can’t rely on one guy,” Simpson said.
“He’s a good player and he will help us … but we had 22 players out there.”
The Eagles trailed for most of the match but regained the lead early in the fourth term, when Jamie Cripps converted his set shot from a tight angle.
The hosts’ response was overwhelming.
Collingwood made a mockery of the low-scoring game, piling on four goals in the space of eight minutes.
“We didn’t use the ball well at all but we were able to play the way we wanted to play long enough to get the job done,” Magpies coach Nathan Buckley said.
Taylor Adams and Scott Pendlebury tallied a combined 70 possessions, 24 tackles and 15 clearances for the hosts.