The stage is perfectly set for a Bombers backlash, but West Coast coach John Worsfold says his team won’t be affected by the crisis gripping Essendon any more than Australia’s Ashes woes.
The Eagles were on the receiving end of a galvanised Bombers outfit when the two teams last met in round 14.
Essendon entered that match under extreme scrutiny following the stunning admission from skipper Jobe Watson that he believed he had taken the banned substance AOD-9604.
The outside scrutiny seemed to unite Essendon’s players, and Watson was particularly inspirational with 29 possessions and two goals as the Bombers came from behind in the dying minutes to snatch a seven-point win.
The build-up to Sunday’s re-match at Etihad Stadium is eerily similar, but this time it’s coach James Hird under the pump.
Essendon’s golden boy is under immense pressure to step down following explosive allegations from the club’s former high performance manager Dean Robinson that Hird was the driving force behind the suspect supplements program.
The off-field drama seems to have finally caught up with the Bombers, who have suffered big losses to Hawthorn and Collingwood over the past fortnight.
But with the pressure at its most intense, Essendon players are desperate to bounce back to winning form in a show of faith to Hird.
West Coast need to win Sunday’s encounter in order to keep their slim finals hopes alive, and Worsfold says his team can’t afford to worry about whether Essendon will be more fired up than usual.
“Our preparation is around just going out and playing good footy. Nothing should change our attitude to going out there to play,” Worsfold said on Wednesday.
“Just because England retained the Ashes, it’s not going to put us off. We’re going to stay focused.”
West Coast could welcome back a host of stars this week, with Matt Priddis (quad), Matt Rosa (back), Daniel Kerr (knee), Mark LeCras (foot) and Chris Masten (ankle) all a chance to return.
All-Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui will miss at least another week as he builds up more match fitness, while Luke Shuey (hamstring) isn’t available just yet.