West Coast coach Adam Simpson has dismissed talk of resting players for Thursday night’s final regular season game, while revealing Dom Sheed and Brendon Ah Chee will return against North Melbourne.
Hit hard by injuries to key players, the Eagles will welcome Sheed (hamstring) and Ah Chee (thumb) back amid at least three changes after hard-running half-back Luke Foley was confirmed to debut.
Star defender Jeremy McGovern (hamstring) is a forced change to the side which produced a gutsy fightback against St Kilda to lock in a finals berth for the sixth-straight season under Simpson.
With a bye after round 18, the coach ruled out resting players who are healthy and hungry to take their spot at Metricon Stadium against the Roos.
“If they don’t play this week it gets close to one game in a month (before finals), so then you start to think about form and continuity,” Simpson said.
“If everyone’s fit they’ll play, if anyone’s sore they won’t – that’s our motto this week.
“We won’t be resting anyone just for the sake of it.”
Foley has developed nicely since arriving at the club via pick 31 in the 2018 national draft and can push up to a wing if required.
The 20-year-old follows in the footsteps of Hamish Brayshaw, Xavier O’Neill, Bailey Williams and Nic Reid by making his AFL debut in 2020.
“Expectations are the same as every other first-gamer we’ve got that he comes in and plays his role and contributes in every way he can,” Simpson said.
“He’s got a good tank, pretty measured in the way he’s gone about his craft and he doesn’t get too flustered, so all the attributes you need as an AFL player.
“Obviously, first game he’s going to be a little bit nervous, but the composure and he’s got pretty good skill, so he’s fitted in pretty well with our backs. Intercept marking has been a bit of a feature for his size.
“But I’m not going to put too much praise on him, it’s his first game. Hopefully he complies, fits into our system and learns from the experience.”
The Eagles are preparing for North Melbourne at their best, with last year’s round 23 disaster at home against Hawthorn still fresh in the memory.
That loss cost West Coast a top four spot, and this year the Eagles can put pressure on Geelong and Richmond for a coveted finals double-chance with victory over North.
“Every year going into the last game – especially with the reduced fixture – there’s a lot more importance on the win,” Simpson said.
“We know what’s at stake this week.”
West Coast will return to Perth on Friday and prepare for another finals campaign, although whether that begins with an elimination final at Optus Stadium or away qualifying final remains up in the air.
The Eagles are likely to have a host of senior players available again for the first final, including skipper Luke Shuey (hamstrings), Jack Redden (thumb), Lewis Jetta (calf), Mark Hutchings (hamstring) and Jamie Cripps (personal).
McGovern and midfield bull Elliot Yeo (groin) could be touch and go however, with the latter missing the past six matches.
“It’s a slow process with these groins, and unfortunately I’ve gone through that too back in my playing days. There’s no timeframe (for Yeo), it’s just when it starts to feel a bit better you can advance,” Simpson said.
“We shut him down for a couple of weeks, our plan was to reintroduce him to training and some straight-line running. He hasn’t gone past that phase yet.
“We’ll wait to make a final assessment until we get back and go from there. Obviously we won’t risk Yeoy for his longer-term future, but at the same time if we can get him up for this final series then we’ll definitely do so.”