Simpson says strong AFL start a must

Before West Coast can try to take advantage of a warm AFL grand final afternoon, they must first weather Hawthorn’s heat.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson has specifically referred to how the Hawks killed off last year’s premiership decider with a ruthless start against Sydney.

The Swans never recovered from a brutal first 40 minutes and lost by 63 points.

“We have to make sure we start well,” Simpson said a video message at last night’s AFL coaches association awards dinner.

“I thought what Hawthorn did to Sydney in last year’s grand final – the way they won the ball and won the contest – is going to be critical for us.

“Hopefully we can play our way.”

If West Coast can keep pace with Hawthorn, the forecast warmer weather could be decisive in the second half.

The Eagles’ qualifying final over Hawthorn earlier this month meant West Coast earned a week off.

The Hawks, by contrast, have made the grand final the hard way via a semi-final.

If they win, Hawthorn will be the first team since the Eagles in 2006 to take the premiership after losing a qualifying final.

More importantly, they are one win away from becoming the first team since Brisbane in 2001-03 to win three straight premierships.

Hawthorn bounced back from the qualifying final loss with wins over Adelaide and Fremantle.

Hawks ruckman Ben McEvoy also predicted that the grand final would be more physical than the last fortnight.

“We’ve been really happy with some of the football we’ve played,” he said.

“But … for finals, they’ve been quite hard-running games.

“So certainly we’ll be preparing for a really physical battle this Saturday.

“Generally grand finals are like that.

“Last year, when we got on top, it was still so physical … it’s going to be red-hot.”

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