Simpson not fooled by struggling Magpies

Collingwood's form has dropped alarmingly in recent weeks, but Eagles coach Adam Simpson reckons Friday's AFL clash will be one of his team's toughest.

ADAM SIMPSON, coach of the Eagles addresses the team at quarter time during the 2018 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia.
ADAM SIMPSON, coach of the Eagles addresses the team at quarter time during the 2018 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia. Picture: Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images

Collingwood's premiership stocks have taken a tumble in recent weeks, but West Coast coach Adam Simpson is well aware of what the Magpies are capable of heading into Friday night's AFL grand final rematch.

The Magpies loomed as one of the teams to beat after opening the season with a powerful 10-3 record.

But two shock losses on the trot have left many questioning whether Collingwood have the mettle to win this year's flag.

The 44-point loss to North Melbourne a fortnight ago was particularly worrying, with Collingwood's lack of intent infuriating coach Nathan Buckley.

Buckley wants his charges to make a statement, and there will be no better way to do it than by knocking off the defending premiers at their home fortress.

And although the betting markets have listed Collingwood as clear outsiders at Optus Stadium, Simpson is rating it as one of his team's toughest challenges of the season.

"How do you define under pressure? They're third on the ladder, they've (only) lost one more game than us for the year," Simpson said of the under-fire Magpies.

"Their form might be a little bit off, but what we're seeing in the personnel and the talent on the track is still pretty good.

"We're aware of their best."

The Eagles will shoot two wins clear of the Magpies with victory on Friday night, and they enter the match oozing confidence following their 91-point demolition of Fremantle.

The return of star forward Josh Kennedy from illness will further bolster West Coast's firepower.

Kennedy replaces Brendon Ah Chee (calf), while Tom Cole comes in for Liam Duggan (ankle).

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley swung the axe in the wake of last week's four-point loss to Hawthorn, dropping Matthew Scharenberg, Josh Thomas, and Josh Daicos.

Levi Greenwood, John Noble, and Ben Crocker come into the side.

The ruck battle between Nic Naitanui and Brodie Grundy will go a long way towards deciding the result of the match.

Grundy is currently rated as the league's best ruckman, while Naitanui has made a stunning return from a second knee reconstruction.

Naitanui's dominant display against Fremantle last week helped the Eagles boot 12 goals to nil from stoppages.

And importantly, he is pulling up well from games.

"Sometimes when Nic gets sore he can't train during the week and that fuels game time and getting up for each week, and that normally points to he needs a week off," Simpson said.

"But two games in he's pulled up quite well, and he's ready to go."

Another key match-up will be Mason Cox's battle with Eagles defender Tom Barrass.

Cox has been quiet in recent weeks, and has struggled against Barrass in the past.

The last time Cox played West Coast in Perth - in last year's qualifying final - he was held goalless from just five disposals.


AAP