West Coast coach Adam Simpson has been left with two headaches this week, and neither are an easy fix.
Simpson’s first headache is how to replace star ruckman Nic Naitanui – both this season and next.
His second dilemma is finding a way to stop the Crows’ star-studded forward line in Friday night’s crunch clash at Adelaide Oval.
Scott Lycett will lead the ruck against the Crows, while the Eagles flew back-up options Mitch Brown and Jonathan Giles to Adelaide.
Simpson says fans will have to wait until team selection on Thursday night before discovering what ruck combination he’ll use against the Crows.
But finding a longer-term solution to replace Naitanui has also been on Simpson’s mind.
Simpson has brought forward a list-management meeting to discuss the club’s options.
And although the third-year coach isn’t willing to name names just yet, luring homesick GWS big man Rory Lobb to the Eagles could be a viable option.
But for the moment Simpson is focusing on the Crows.
Sixth-placed West Coast need to win Friday’s match in order to secure a home final.
If they lose, the Eagles will likely slip to seventh – consigning them to an away elimination final.
Adelaide are the best attacking side in the competition, averaging 115 points per game.
Eddie Betts has led the way with 65 goals, while Josh Jenkins (59), Taylor Walker (43), Tom Lynch (36) and Mitch McGovern (29) have also been important contributors.
West Coast were sublime in nullifying Hawthorn’s midfield strengths last week, and Simpson knows they’ll need to do a similar job if they are to cut off supply to Adelaide’s star-studded attack.
“They’ve got the toughest forward line in the comp to play against,” Simpson said.
“They’re all dangerous.”
Some experts have written off West Coast’s flag chances in the wake of Naitanui’s season-ending knee injury.
But Simpson thinks otherwise, despite Naitanui’s recent heroics against GWS and Hawthorn.
“There’s been a lot of negative talk on the back of Nic and the fact that our season is over and next season is over because he’s not going to be available,” Simpson said.
“I don’t buy into that.
“I’ll be really disappointed if we can’t advance any further without Nic.
“It’d be ridiculous of me to think that we can’t win without and our players don’t believe that either.”
The Crows will be without suspended midfielder Rory Sloane for Friday’s match.