West Coast have a deep list capable of making a big play at the premiership this season but can’t afford to rest on their laurels in the pursuit of flag glory, according to captain Shannon Hurn.
The seamless addition of boom recruit Sam Mitchell to the engine room during the pre-season series has helped fire the Eagles into premiership calculations despite the loss of Nic Naitanui to a long-term knee injury and support ruckman Scott Lycett with a shoulder injury.
Nine days out from their round-one meeting with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, Adam Simpson’s side sits on the fourth line of betting as a $9 premiership fancy.
Greater Western Sydney ($4) are flag favourites, followed by reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs ($6) and last year’s beaten grand finalists Sydney ($7.50).
West Coast were runners-up to Mitchell’s Hawthorn in 2015 and bombed out in an elimination final against the Bulldogs last year, but Hurn felt a growing maturity within the playing group had it primed for a shot at the flag this time around. “If we play good team footy and play well with our list, I’d like to think that we’d be around the mark,” Hurn said.
“But you never know because there are surprises. Some teams slide, some teams jump up.
“You can never get too far ahead of yourself. If we do our bit, I think we’ll be around the mark.
“But then you’ve got to be in form come the finals. You need to give yourself a chance.
“First you need to qualify and to do that you need to win 12-13 games for the year, which is still a tough ask.”
Hurn will again marshal West Coast’s back line this season and has been buoyed by the return to form of 2014 club champion Eric Mackenzie during pre-season games.
Mackenzie will vie for spots in the side with Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass and Will Schofield.
And Hurn said the continued improvement of inexperienced defenders Jackson Nelson and Tom Cole would create welcome selection headaches for the coaching staff.
“It’s a good thing, because you’ve got to have a strong group,” Hurn said.
“We’ve been pleased with the way Eric Mackenzie’s come back again this year.
“He struggled a little bit last year, but his form this year’s been good and he understands what he’s got to do.
“Will Schofield, we know how he plays, Gov’s playing pretty good footy down there and Tommy Barrass.
“But also a couple of the young kids like Jackson Nelson and Tom Cole are going to be quite good for us too.
“We’re pretty comfortable with what we’ve got.
“It’s just about working together, especially down back.”
Hurn is entering his 12th season at West Coast, having played his 200th game in the elimination final last year.
He said the summer break had treated him well and he would be ready to go in round one.