West Coast wingman Matt Rosa is making an audacious bid to end six years of finals heartache by playing in Sunday's elimination final against North Melbourne at Patersons Stadium.
Rosa missed last year's finals after injuring a knee in round 20, was dropped for the 2006 preliminary final despite averaging 21 possessions from his previous three games, and played in both of the team's finals losses in 2007.
He had surgery a week ago after fracturing his right collarbone against Collingwood on August 25. A plate was inserted to strengthen it. He ran strongly yesterday but is yet to be tested with contact drills. Rosa will have to prove himself at training on Thursday in the same session in which Josh Kennedy will test his injured left ankle.
Kennedy had scans yesterday on the same ankle he injured earlier in the season and, though they cleared him of damage, he sat out training.
But key defender Eric Mackenzie ran freely throughout that session and is likely to line up on North Melbourne star Drew Petrie.
A host of Eagles are banging on the selectors' doors trying to get a game.
Coach John Worsfold said he was "unbelievably happy" with how Quinten Lynch performed for West Perth on Saturday. Bradd Dalziell had 34 disposals for East Fremantle, Lewis Stevenson played well for Claremont and Ashton Hams is also pushing to earn a recall.
"It's tough all the time. You can only pick 22," Worsfold said.
"It's never easy leaving guys out that you could see playing. But you can never pick more than 22."
Andrew Strijk and Mitch Brown are likely casualties if Rosa and Mackenzie are included. Strijk has managed only nine touches in his two matches since earning a recall in round 22, while just one of Brown's eight games has come when Mackenzie, Will Schofield and Darren Glass have played.
He stood Lance Franklin for most of last Friday night and though the Hawthorn star kicked four goals in the first term, only one came while directly opposed by Brown.
Midfielder Luke Shuey said Brown had been unlucky all year.
"He's been great in being able to come in and fill a hole for us when- ever we've had one of our backs go out," Shuey said.
"He's probably the stiffest bloke on our list.
"He certainly deserves to be playing AFL footy. We looked back on the goals that Buddy was kicking and there wasn't much we could do to stop him.
"A lot of them weren't even Brownie's fault."
Worsfold has a message for ruckmen who believe walking into Nic Naitanui's path at centre bounces will limit his influence, saying the Eagles star will just jump straight over them during the finals.
Hawthorn pair David Hale and Jarryd Roughead tried to restrict Naitanui's ability to jump last Friday night.
Sydney and Adelaide used similar tactics this season. Naitanui had little influence against the Swans and Crows, but he and Cox dominated the hit-outs against the Hawks."I think Nic is dealing with the rucks crossing the line pretty well now. He's changed the things he does," Worsfold said.
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