WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson is adamant tanking for the No.1 draft pick isn’t in his thoughts, but concedes some of his champions are in the “back nine” of their AFL careers.
Simpson finally has a selection headache on his hands as he ponders how many senior stars to bring back for Saturday’s home clash with Geelong.
The Eagles have been forced to scrap for players all season due to a crippling run of injuries and COVID chaos.
West Coast is the only club who have been forced to dip into their COVID top-up list this year, and they have already used 43 players and handed out 13 debuts.
But the tide has finally turned.
Elliot Yeo (concussion/COVID), Dom Sheed (ankle), Liam Ryan (hamstring), Willie Rioli (hamstring), and Jeremy McGovern (back) are all available for selection and likely to face the Cats.
Jamaine Jones and Jack Petruccelle are also available for selection after overcoming injury, giving Simpson plenty of options to choose from.
West Coast sits on the bottom of the ladder with a 1-11 record and a horrible percentage of 50.7.
But with the Kangaroos (1-11) just 1.6 percentage points ahead of them, West Coast is by no means guaranteed to finish last and earn the prized No.1 pick at the draft.
Simpson says creating a winning culture would trump any benefit gained out of getting higher draft picks.
With a host of senior players now available again, Simpson faces a delicate balancing act between players of the future and the club’s ageing stars.
“Tanking – that’s not even in our conversation,” Simpson said on Tuesday.
“But respecting the champions of the game we’ve got – we’ve got a few guys on the back nine.
“Respecting their careers and where they’re at and exposing our younger players is what we’ll work through in the back half of the year.
“There’s 10 games to go, and I’m hoping to get the balance right.
“Some weeks you’ll get a different look with the youth, and some weeks we’ll get a different look with the players who deserve to play or have been around and have been champions of the game.”
West Coast is currently on a club-record eight-match losing run, and they will start as rank underdogs against the fifth-placed Cats.
The Eagles will at least be boosted by a host of returning A-grade players.
“We’ve not had pressure at match committee and the players are embracing that,” Simpson said.
“It’s getting to a point where we’ve got to get them in. See how they go through the week.”
Midfielder Jai Culley, who was the No.1 pick at the mid-season draft, is set to be given more time in the WAFL before being handed his senior debut.
(C) AAP 2022