MIDFIELDER Jack Redden is confident defending champions West Coast have a team capable of overcoming a daunting schedule to win this year’s AFL flag from fifth spot.
Saturday night’s shock 38-point AFL loss to Hawthorn pushed West Coast out of the top four, robbing them of a prized double chance in the finals.
The Eagles will host Essendon in a winner-takes-all elimination final on Thursday week, but will then have to travel for three consecutive weeks after that to win the flag.
Only one team has won the premiership from outside the top four under the current finals format – the seventh-placed Bulldogs in 2016.
But only two of the Bulldogs’ four finals were interstate.
West Coast’s path to a successful flag defence now looks rocky, but Redden is taking comfort from the fact that the Eagles have won 14 of their 21 games on the road over the past two seasons.
“We’ve definitely got the team to win finals. It’s proven,” Redden said.
“Travelling isn’t an issue for us anymore. We’ve got a pretty good record away from home. We’ve got the list to do it.”
West Coast are set to receive a major boost for the finals with the return of star ruckman Nic Naitanui.
The 29-year-old hasn’t played since suffering a syndesmosis ankle injury in round 17, but he just needs to tick a few more boxes at training before being given the green light to play.
Naitanui was in hot form when he returned from a knee injury for three games earlier this season, forming a devastating ruck partnership with Tom Hickey.
If Naitanui can fire on all cylinders again, West Coast’s midfield will turn into a major weapon.
“It’s massive. Everyone knows what Nic can do and how uplifting he is when he’s on the park with us,” Redden said.
“It would make the story pretty special if it were to happen.
“He’s got that X-factor, and he’s pretty versatile as well. You can push him up forward.”
West Coast committed a series of uncharacteristic errors against the Hawks, and they lacked their usual intercept marking prowess in defence.
Redden believes it was just a one-off flop rather than part of a worrying trend.
“We haven’t had one of those games for a long time,” Redden said.
“I’m glad it’s now and not in the finals. That’s the only positive we can take out of it.”
Star Essendon defender Michael Hurley (shoulder) is in doubt for next week’s clash, but Dyson Heppell (foot), Orazio Fantasia (hip), Jake Stringer (soreness), and Cale Hooker (illness) are set to return.