Eagles plan to stifle Port
Eagles plan to stifle Port

West Coast need to lift the contested side of their game to stifle Port Adelaide's formidable running power, according to coach Adam Simpson.

And Simpson has also backed Nic Naitanui to find form, warning the ruckman had missed three pre-seasons and needed to get confidence back in his body.

Port were savaged by Fremantle's forward press the last time they visited Patersons Stadium in round 22 last year, copping a 74-point hammering as the Dockers worked them over with pressure.

Asked if he would set the same challenge for his players tonight, Simpson replied: "One thing about the press is that you have got to get the ball in your half to press so our first objective is to get the ball."

After winning the contested possessions 160-125 against the Western Bulldogs in round one, the Eagles have fared progressively worse in rounds two, three and four, taking a 150-130 pounding from Geelong in the key statistic last Saturday night.

"Every club will have a KPI of winning contested ball," Simpson said. "We thought we were in a good space in the pre-season and even up to round two. But in the last few weeks we dropped off.

"It is not the be all and end all, but it just gives you so much more chance to win the game. They know how important it is."

Simpson said Naitanui "came up pretty well" from a kick to his Achilles tendon against Geelong.

"He got a bit of a knock to the back of the leg so it is not his groins or anything like that. He had a few scans and he is right to play," he said.

Form, though, was another matter. Naitanui has managed just 40 possessions, six marks and one goal in four games.

Simpson said a series of missed pre-seasons was hurting him.

"It is not just one pre-season, I would say it is three," Simpson said.

"The type of player that he is, such a power athlete, to have confidence in your body is the first step and he is still getting that.

"We will back him in. We will see how he goes tomorrow. We expect a bit of an improvement."

The Eagles are confident enough in Naitanui's capacity to absorb a bigger workload that they have axed ruckman Scott Lycett, one of five omissions.

Simpson said they also needed to match Port Adelaide's running power. Chris Masten, Matt Rosa, Luke Shuey, Mark Hutchings and skipper Darren Glass were recalled at the expense of Brant Colledge, Lycett, Will Schofield, Sam Butler and Pat McGinnity.

"Every club will have a KPI of winning contested ball … But in the last few weeks we dropped off.""Eagles coach *Adam Simpson *

The West Australian

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