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"The belief is growing amongst the group"

Luke Sicari  September 13, 2017 12:30 PM

AFL 2017 First Elimination Final - Port Adelaide v West Coast

Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie limited Paddy Ryder to just seven disposals and zero marks at the weekend

West Coast ruckman Nathan Vardy says the belief among the playing group is growing in the lead-up to the Eagles’ semi-final clash with Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night.

The Eagles advanced to the next stage of the AFL Finals thanks to a dramatic after-the-siren, extra-time triumph over Port Adelaide last week.

Coupled with their 29-point round 23 win over Adelaide, which helped West Coast to secure a top-eight spot by the narrowest of percentages, Adam Simpson’s men have delivered in two performances that will live forever in Eagles folklore.

Vardy reckons the mental fortitude West Coast demonstrated against Adelaide and Port Adelaide has been a pillar in the side’s buoyant approach to the semi-final.     

“With those results, we are just building belief amongst ourselves,” Vardy told SEN radio.

“We have played the Giants a couple of times this year and have been beaten, but we have definitely been in the contest both times. The belief is growing amongst the group, so we just need to take that confidence in each week.”

The former Cat has played a pivotal role in West Coast’s season, manning a ruck position that has been decimated by injuries.

Against the Power, Vardy and fellow tall Drew Petrie were tasked with handling All Australian ruck Paddy Ryder, a player who had been convincing in Port’s two home-and-away clashes with the Eagles.

Thanks to some assistance from a sidelined Nic Naitanui, the West Coast duo devised a plan that helped them win the ruck battle.  

“We had two weeks to plan for this game and having Nic Nat back training a fair bit, I sort of lent on him a little bit for some guidance, because they’re similar players,” Vardy said.

“I spent a lot of time with Nic, and Drew did the same thing.

“He [Ryder] was going to win his hit-outs, so it was just about making them as messy as possible, so our on-ballers could go to work. Then stopping him from getting the footy, taking his contested marks down the line, and then stopping him getting forward. Luckily Drew and I could get the job done on him.”

Although Ryder had 54 hit-outs compared to a combined 42 from Vardy and Petrie, the Power big man managed just seven disposals and zero marks through 140 minutes of football.

Furthermore, West Coast won the clearance battle by nine and got the ball moving out of the centre square during pivotal moments in extra-time, which indicates how well the Eagles duo were able to quell Ryder’s impact and capitalise on their own good work.