West Coast coach Adam Simpson isn’t just counting on his vaunted team defence, popularly known as the ‘Weagles Web’, to bring down Hawthorn in Saturday’s AFL grand final.
It’s a credit to Simpson that he’s been able to cover the season-long absences of key defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown to guide his side into the premiership decider but the coach says his strategy is hardly revolutionary.
“We’re heading down a path with what we do with our defence (but) I don’t think it’s reinvented the wheel,” Simpson said on Friday. “I think that’s been overplayed a fair bit.
“I see seven or eight clubs doing the same thing. Through circumstances we had to play a bit shorter and we relied on the support of others so much.
“It forced us to do a few things that we had to try a little bit differently and they’ve come off to a certain degree but I wouldn’t be banking everything on just that part of our game.”
The Hawks got hopelessly entangled in the web in their qualifying final loss to the Eagles in Perth, with West Coast’s superior pressure forcing their opponents into uncharacteristic skill errors and turnovers.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson described that loss as a smack in the gob and there’s little doubt it has focused his players, who go into the grand final looking a lot more like the hard-nosed unit that dispatched Fremantle and Sydney to win the past two flags.
The Hawks set up last year’s 63-point thumping of the Swans with a blistering start and Simpson has drummed the need for a high intensity first quarter into his players.
“It’s easy to say, and I’ve been saying it all week, but we’ve got to deliver that because I know Hawthorn will,” he said. “We’ll have to be on our toes with the contest.”
Skipper Shannon Hurn is confident his players won’t be overawed by the occasion and will bring the same manic pressure that propelled them into second spot on the ladder.
“It’s all about the mindset and the attitude that you want to bring to the game,” Hurn said.
“I think we’ve been able to do that pretty well this year – especially in the past two to three months – and I can’t see it being any different.
“It’s just individually getting yourself ready for the game, making sure you play team footy and when it’s your turn to go you have a go.”
West Coast have gone with an unchanged line-up after progressing through to Saturday’s big clash with a 25-point preliminary final win over North Melbourne.
Scott Selwood is the hard-luck story for the Eagles after he lost his place in the side after the qualifying final, but Simpson said leaving his vice-captain out had been one of many difficult decisions.
“It was tough with four or five players, it was tough for Eric Mackenzie, Mitch Brown and Scott Lycett and all those types of players,” he said.
“We had difficult conversations early in the week with a lot of the boys.
“We’ve had a little bit of stability in the last few weeks but we’ve used a wide range of players so it was a tough decision in the end but we’ll stick with what we’ve got.”