Scott Lycett v Brodie Grundy
The battle of West Coast and Collingwood’s No.1 ruckmen will undoubtedly influence the outcome of Saturday night’s qualifying final. Lycett and Grundy engaged in a compelling battle the last time the two sides met in round 17. Following the exit of Nic Naitanui midway through the second quarter, Lycett led West Coast’s ruck unit and halved his battle with the eventual 2018 all-Australian. The 25-year-old will need to play a similar game to help the Eagles get across the line at Optus Stadium. Lycett not only needs to match Grundy in the air, but limit his influence at ground level. The Magpie is currently ranked eighth in the league for total stoppage clearances and 10th for total clearances and total contested possessions. If Lycett – who is averaging a career-high 3.0 clearances and 8.4 contested possessions this year – can find a way to curtail Grundy’s ability to find the ball it will go a long way to helping the Eagles advance to a home preliminary final.
Josh Kennedy v Tyson Goldsack
Not many punters would have predicted this match-up, but Collingwood shocked the footballing world yesterday by selecting Tyson Goldsack – who is less than six months removed from suffering a partially ruptured ACL – for Saturday’s qualifying final. Kennedy is also returning from a lengthy injury layoff. He has missed the past five games with a leg injury. It will be intriguing to see how the pair perform following extended stints on the sidelines – although Goldsack did play in the Magpies’ VFL loss to Essendon last Sunday, where he collected just two disposals. Kennedy traditionally plays well coming off long injury breaks. He booted three majors against Fremantle in round 17 last year after missing five games midway through the year and bagged five goals against Gold Coast this year after battling achilles/ankle issues all summer. He also has good form against Collingwood, who he slotted three six pointers against at the MCG earlier this year.
Mark Hutchings v Steele Sidebottom
West Coast’s premier run-with player has another big task ahead of him this weekend. Hutchings went to Sidebottom in round 17 and kept the 2018 all-Australian to just 18 disposals – his equal lowest haul of the year. With Hutchings on his shoulder, the 2010 premiership-winning Pie also managed just one clearance, one rebound 50 and two inside 50s at the MCG. If Hutchings can produce a similar performance on Saturday night it could help West Coast win the all-important midfield battle.
Brad Sheppard v Jordan De Goey
Brad Sheppard’s battle with the in-form Jordan De Goey looms as a crucial one for the Eagles. De Goey bolted out of the blocks in round 17, kicking the game’s opening goal and another major midway through the first quarter. The Magpies’ second most potent forward for season 2018 got on top early in part due to the late exclusion of key forward Mason Cox. After selecting three tall backs for the game, West Coast took some time to find their best match-up for De Goey during the formative exchanges of the contest. They eventually settled on the dependable Sheppard, who limited him to just two more goals for the game. The 27-year-old Eagle will play a huge role on Saturday night and will be expected to mark several fleet-footed Pies, including 2018 NAB Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson and Will Hoskin-Elliot. But if he can quell the dangerous De Goey’s impact, it could inspire West Coast’s defensive unit and the rest of the team.