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Tougher mindset must be Eagles' new normal: Hutchings

THE PRESSURE and physicality West Coast applied against Geelong needs to be the benchmark in the run home to finals, tough midfielder Mark Hutchings says. 

The Eagles have had their toughness questioned after some poor showings away from home, but hunted the Cats last Thursday night in a 13-point win.

West Coast laid 93 tackles – up from 57 in the loss to Gold Coast before the bye – and locked the ball in their forward half in a brand of football reminiscent of the past two seasons.

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The Eagles put a heavier emphasis on physical training coming off the bye, and Hutchings believed they have set a standard after an inconsistent 2017 so far.

"We had those conversations (about applying pressure), the players with each other, and we were able to train a little bit of it as well, catch our breath and reset for the second half of the year," Hutchings said.

"Thursday night was just the first step in doing that.

"Even if you don't train it as much some weeks, if we can come with that mindset on game day we'll be right – and that's just something we need to nail in the second half of the year.

"Our pressure was really good on Thursday and that's what helped us play the game in our forward half and get those turnovers.

"Every team thrives off turnovers and we're no different."

Five talking points: West Coast v Geelong

Hutchings played a key role in the Cats win, clamping down on Joel Selwood and limiting the in-form champion's influence to 19 touches – his lowest tally since Collingwood tagger Levi Greenwood held him to 17 disposals in round six.

"I needed to concentrate all night. I can't remember too much of the game, I was just focused on what he was doing," Hutchings said.

"(Tagging) definitely gives you a clear focus. Sometimes it goes against your natural instinct." 

West Coast is in the midst of a crucial month, with the next challenge against finals rival Melbourne at Domain Stadium on Saturday night.

The Eagles are in seventh spot with a 7-5 record – in touch with the top four but not safe in the top eight – and face the Bulldogs (away), Port Adelaide (home) and Fremantle (away) in the weeks to come.

The Demons (7-5, fifth) are set to regain All Australian ruckman Max Gawn this round to bolster an emerging midfield brigade, although Jack Watts (hamstring) and co-captain Nathan Jones (quad) are under injury clouds.

If Jones plays, he shapes as the main target for Hutchings to tag.

"I don’t look into it too deeply. It's usually the oppo scouts and Simmo (coach Adam Simpson) who makes the final call if we do that and who it is if we do it," he said.

"He's obviously a pretty good player for them, but they usually tell me later in the week and until then I just prepare as if I'm going to play a normal role." 

The Eagles hope to regain star spearhead Josh Kennedy (calf) and are likely to be forced into one change with Jackson Nelson hurting his hamstring against the Cats.