The West

Eagles to relish cutthroat challenge
Beau Waters. Picture: Lincoln Baker

West Coast's remaining premiership players see the challenge of an entire month of sudden-death football as the final frontier which provides them with the chance to create history, according to vice-captain Beau Waters.

The Eagles are preparing for their first elimination final since 2004, against North Melbourne at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.

They haven't survived a must-win first-week final since upsetting the Kangaroos at Waverley in 1993.

West Coast made the top four in 2005 and 2006 on their way to grand finals, and also had the double chance in 2007 and 2011.

Eight members of the 2006 premiership team are still playing for West Coast. Of those, only Quinten Lynch did not play with the Eagles last week.

Waters said playing without a safety net and having to perform at their best straight away gave the players an exciting new challenge.

"Anything could happen and we're in control of our own destiny," Waters said. "There's seven other sides that genuinely believe and I think it's magnified this year, that they are a flag contender. That's the way we feel.

"In 2004, we finished eighth, played Sydney in Sydney and lost by eight goals. From then on, we've always finished in the top four and had that double chance.

"We are a group that normally responds to a challenge. Having the possibility of being eliminated if we lose is a good challenge for us.

"This season is a great chance for us to come from fifth.

"Being in a do or die situation with an elimination final - we're in that position for the next four weeks. It's pretty exciting."

No club has won a premiership from outside the top four under the current finals system. Adelaide finished fifth and won the 1998 grand final, but the Crows lost to Melbourne by eight goals in the opening week and still advanced.

The Eagles finished fourth last year, lost to Collingwood at the MCG, then beat Carlton in Perth before losing the preliminary final to premiers Geelong.

Waters said it didn't feel like 12 months since the players walked off the MCG with their grand final dream shattered, but it still felt like they'd let an opportunity slip by.

North Melbourne haven't played finals since 2008 and their last elimination final victory was in 1997.

The Roos lost elimination finals to Sydney in 2008, Port Adelaide in 2005 and Melbourne in 2002.

Waters said it would be crucial to close down North Melbourne's space so they couldn't run with the ball. In the past four weeks, the Kangaroos have lost the contested possession count by 65, while West Coast have won that battle by 48.

"I know North Melbourne play a running game and they've been very good with their skills over the journey. It'll be interesting to see how they play against our real contested footy and our contested style of play," Waters said.

"If it's contested, then we're playing our best football. Our intensity is up, we're winning the inside ball, we've got some great midfielders that spread really hard from stoppages that can then use the ball by foot as well.

"I believe if we win the contested ball then we also have the skill level to beat them on the outside."

The West Australian

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