Selfless Matt Priddis a catalyst for 2018 run

Matt Priddis is one of West Coast's favourite sons. Photo: Getty
Matt Priddis is one of West Coast's favourite sons. Photo: Getty

WHEN West Coast sacrificed their beloved Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis, coach Adam Simpson wasn’t sure.

“To lose Priddis was a big one,” Simpson told reporters on Friday.

“That is the one we felt might have hurt us in the long term, not just as a player but the person … the leadership and his standards are so high.”

Last June, Priddis signed a contract extension to play in 2018.

A month later, he announced he was quitting at season’s end, honestly admitting a form slump signalled the end of his decorated career.

Coach Simpson looks back at the Priddis decision as a watershed moment that has allowed the Eagles to reach Saturday’s grand final against Collingwood.

“That (Priddis) is the one that we worked really hard to move through,” Simpson said.

“And I think the opportunity that Jack Redden and Elliot Yeo and these guys have had is due to the sacrifices that we made last year.”

Yeo and Redden have filled the void in West Coast’s midfield left by the departure of Priddis and another retired veteran, Sam Mitchell.

Another seasoned stalwart Drew Petrie – who like Mitchell played just one season at West Coast – also retired at the end of last season to mark a changing of the Eagles’ guard.

“We transitioned the list a little bit at the back end of last year,” Simpson said.

“We got Sam and drew Petrie over as short-term fixes … but the fact is that the group was probably bigger than those two guys.”

Simpson said Petrie’s departure was, at the time, softened by the prospect of Nic Naitanui returning from a knee reconstruction after missing the entire 2017 season.

But Naitanui damaged a knee again in July and another reconstruction ended his season.

The Eagles then defied that setback and the eight-game suspension of star winger Andrew Gaff to secure a grand final berth.

“There’s no doubt a tremendous spirit at our club,” Simpson said.

“And I get the sense the team can go all the way and carry that through, not just through the players but the whole (football) department.

“That doesn’t just happen, it takes time to foster that.

“We can’t wait to play. We can’t wait to have a win, that is our plan. But our journey has been bigger than that.”

– AAP