Embers fires up for finals
Andrew Embley. Pic: AFL Media

Veteran West Coast winger Andrew Embley has urged teammates to seize the moment against Collingwood in tomorrow night's semifinal at the MCG.

"I've been playing footy way too long to say that things might happen next year or the year after that or the year after that, but we have a wonderful opportunity right now, it's important we take that opportunity," he said.

Embley's been there and done that and now he wants to do it again.

The 2006 Norm Smith medallist is as fresh and frisky as a colt heading into his 14th final, sitting one game shy of Darren Glass and Dean Cox, both scheduled to play in their 15th final.

With 22 disposals and four goals, Embley was among West Coast's best in the rout against North Melbourne at Patersons Stadium last Sunday.

Confident that he will play on in 2013, the 31-year-old found it impossible to compare the premiership team of 2006 to today's outfit, but he offered one observation.

"It is really hard to compare but one thing I say about this group is that it wants to create its own destiny," he said. "We have a wonderful group of players, with the experience we have at the moment and younger kids coming through who just want to continue to improve and get better."

Despite being the second oldest member of the team, five weeks the junior of Glass, the veteran of 238 games said a long lay-off from shoulder surgery put him in better shape this year than he was going into last year's finals.

After damaging his left shoulder in the second game of the season against Melbourne, Embley was sidelined for 16 weeks before returning through Swan Districts for two games.

He made his comeback with the Eagles as the sub in round 20 against Geelong.

"I feel like I'm a lot fresher heading into this finals series compared to last year's finals series," he said. "I haven't played as many games, which means my body is feeling pretty good."

Embley chose a type of surgery more prevalent in Europe than Australia after discussions with teammate Mark Nicoski, who had been troubled with shoulder problems.

"Basically, they take a little bit of bone from what they call the coracoid process (knob of bone at the top of the shoulder blade) and basically put it in front of the socket in the shoulder to stop the ball from sliding out," he said.

"I'm feeling really good at the moment, so I'm rapt that I went with that procedure.

"I think (Fremantle's) Nat Fyfe had the same.

"Mark Nicoski has had a couple of reconstructions on his shoulder and he said that this procedure was the best one that he'd done."

In his comeback match for Swans against Subiaco on July 28, Embley took seven marks and had 16 disposals in 80 minutes of game time. But it was an incident in the first quarter which heartened him the most.

He'd like to thank the young Subiaco player who drove him into the Medibank Stadium turf, but he doesn't know his name. Suffice to say, the young Lion enjoyed the opportunity to bury one of West Coast's biggest names.

"I ran to pick the ball up and just got tackled really, really hard," Embley said.

"I got driven into the ground on the shoulder and that was probably the best thing for me that came out of the whole game, rather than kicks, marks or handballs, knowing that I'd copped a really serious tackle and I was able to get up from it.

"He was one of the young Subiaco boys who was playing on me at the time.

"He was happy to do it and, to be honest, I was happy that he did it as well."

In his five games for West Coast since round 20, Embley has worked his way back towards full fitness, spending more time on the ground each week when he covers between 14.5km and 15.5km a game.

It's a notch below the Eagle recognised with the biggest tank, 20-year-old Andrew Gaff, who covers more than 15.5km each game.

"I don't necessarily look at the amount of ks I run, I look at distance per minute and how many high-intense efforts I do, which means that I've got that explosive run about me," Embley said.

"Andrew's biggest strength is that he is covering a lot of distance but has high-intense efforts as well. Sometimes he may not look like he's sprinting out there, but he is."

Embley said the team's defensive pressure remained its key weapon against Collingwood.

"Our defensive pressure is one of the key performance indicators that we look at," he said.

"If we are able to close down their space and put a lot of heat on their midfielders when they have the ball, it stops the quality of ball going into the forward line and gives our backs a big chance."

While Embley's attention rests solely on the clash against the Pies, he "absolutely" wants to be part of the Eagles' progression next year.

"I'd love to play on," he said.

"My focus at the moment is not next year, it's this finals series. Then I'm sure a deal will be done to keep me at the club next year."

"One thing I say about this group is that it wants to create its own destiny." " * Andrew Embley *

The West Australian

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