West Coast coach Adam Simpson is set to welcome back four A-graders for Sunday’s crunch AFL clash with the Western Bulldogs, and he’s confident they won’t just be plodding around.
Brad Sheppard (concussion), Jeremy McGovern (knee), Tim Kelly (knee) and captain Luke Shuey (hamstring) will all return barring any unexpected setbacks before game day.
Bringing back four players from injury all at once comes with risks – as West Coast experienced in last year’s heartbreaking one-point elimination final loss to Collingwood in Perth.
But Simpson is confident the quartet haven’t lost too much conditioning and won’t be a liability.
Sheppard has missed just the one game, while Shuey made a successful return via the WAFL last week.
McGovern last played in round nine but has been training hard in recent weeks, while Kelly last featured in round 11.
Simpson knows the risks involved in recalling four fit-again players, but it’s a gamble he’s willing to take given their class and importance to the side.
“It happened last year with the Collingwood final, we brought three of four back and a couple were a bit underdone (and we lost),” Simpson said.
“We’ve got to work through it, because what we don’t want is them just plodding around. They’ll go as hard as they can for as long as they can.
“So we’ve got to manage it as best as we can, but their best is pretty good, and they’re probably as prepared as they can be.”
The second-placed Bulldogs (10-3) have lost two of their past three games, including last week’s after-the-siren defeat to Geelong.
Seventh-placed West Coast (8-5) kept their top-four hopes alive with a thrilling four-point win over Richmond before their bye week.
Banned West Coast goalsneak Willie Rioli made his return to the club this week, and he has already impressed with his skills at training.
Rioli’s anti-doping suspension doesn’t expire until August 20, giving him a two-month training block to get match ready.
“The skinny’s (skin folds) were good,” Simpson said.
“The weight was up a little bit – nothing we can’t handle in the short term.”