West Coast coach Adam Simpson admits his team won’t make much of an impact during finals time if they don’t get out of their current funk, but he’s not panicking just yet.
The Eagles (12-5) enter round 19 just percentage adrift of second spot following a five-match winning run; all against sides below them on the ladder.
But their patchy form during that streak has been a huge concern, with the absence of star ruckman Nic Naitanui telling.
West Coast were lucky to notch a six-point win over Melbourne last week after losing the inside-50m count 66-37.
Naitanui (Achilles surgery) won’t return until next week’s clash with Fremantle, meaning the Eagles will need to come up with a different way to generate enough attacking opportunities against Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday.
A loss to Collingwood would prove disastrous to West Coast’s top-four hopes, and Simpson is well aware the stakes are high.
But rather than panic, Simpson said it was just a matter of helping the club’s mid-tier players rediscover the form they displayed during last year’s run to the grand final.
“I would have thought a few have dropped away,” Simpson said.
“We need them stepping up.
“Our good players are playing well at the moment, we just need a few more contributors.”
The Eagles will start as favourites against both Collingwood and Fremantle.
But their top-four hopes will be put to the test in the final three rounds, when they take on GWS (away), Hawthorn (home) and Adelaide (away).
Simpson knows his team need to get out of their recent funk if they are to be a legitimate challenger for the premiership this year.
“You would have thought we’re not going to progress too far if we continue to play the same standard we’re playing at the moment,” Simpson said.
“We understand that every game is critical for us at the moment because we’re fighting with six other sides for two or three spots up the top there.
“The challenge for us is we want to be a consistent top-four side, and we’re not there yet.
“I don’t think having one good season gets you that right. We’re still working towards that consistency with our sustained success.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win a premiership every year. But if you can be a contender and up amongst it, that’s our ultimate goal.”
West Coast haven’t beaten Collingwood at the MCG since 1995, and Simpson said it was a challenge his team would embrace.
Collingwood were dealt a triple injury blow when Alex Fasolo (shoulder), Jarryd Blair (groin), and Ben Sinclair (concussion) were all forced out this week.
West Coast recalled Dom Sheed for his first AFL match of the season, while Will Schofield, Mark Hutchings and Simon Tunbridge also return to the side.