West Coast coach Adam Simpson has warned that some players are playing for their careers in the closing stages of the season after he and fellow selectors made five changes in the team to face Brisbane at the Gabba tomorrow.
Sharrod Wellingham was dropped for the third time this year (he earned a late recall on one occasion). Jamie Cripps was also dropped, ruckman Dean Cox was rested and selectors could not consider the injured Matt Rosa or the suspended Josh Kennedy.
Callum Sinclair will play, probably as a forward, while midfielders Dom Sheed and Simon Tunbridge and defender Ash Smith will get chances. Nic Naitanui returns after a week off.
Asked if some players were playing for their careers, Simpson said: "I think every club has that no matter where they are on the ladder. Players, playing for their careers for sure.
"We are going to go in with a pretty young side. I need to see some of these players that are playing at East Perth play, to see what they can deliver us potentially in the coming years."
It was a change of pace and mood from the West Coast selectors after they were competitive but ultimately beaten by Sydney last week to slip three games from eighth spot.
Simpson said that a decision on Cox's future was likely prior to the end of the year. Decisions on other players may hinge on performances in the coming weeks.
Sinclair, one of four ruckmen on the Eagles list, gets a chance to show his versatility in Kennedy's absence. Sheed, a teenager in his first season, will be played to gauge his progress. West Coast like Tunbridge's size and pace.
Smith, a 23-year-old defender who has played 43 games including 18 in 2011, faces a critical seven weeks. He has played just 17 games since 2011 and this will be his first match this season.
Faced with questions about the size and pace of his midfield, Simpson yesterday made it clear that he was looking for players who "had a crack".
"The biggest thing I am looking for in our midfield and with anyone who plays in our side is competitive instinct," he said.
"The size, the shape and the legs I think is secondary. I want mids who have a crack and put their head over the ball."
Simpson said Naitanui, rested last week, had trained strongly this week. He admitted being surprised about the rollercoaster of opinions on his ruckman.
"I do get surprised when it goes from 'he is the best player in the competition' to 'should he be dropped'. I don't see that in other players," Simpson said.
"When someone plays poorly or has a couple of poor weeks and they have been an established senior player, All-Australian, I don't see the criticism come so quick … and then it goes away again. It's a rollercoaster."