WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson will welcome the looming selection squeeze ahead of next Saturday's clash with Hawthorn, with Nic Naitanui, Tom Barrass and Willie Rioli set to bolster a line-up that easily dismissed Essendon on Thursday night.
Star ruck Naitanui (knee) and full-back Barrass (foot) only need to get through their WAFL comebacks on Saturday to come in against the Hawks, while small forward Rioli is also set to return from suspension.
EAGLES SOAR INTO TOP FOUR Full match coverage and stats
Barrass could be needed to slot straight back in for Jeremy McGovern, who was reported for rough conduct after pushing Matt Guelfi into the boundary fence and a chair in the first quarter, leaving the young Don with suspected broken ribs.
Rioli's return could unlock a fleet-footed forward setup, after debutant Jarrod Cameron (two goals) was far from overawed and combined well with Jack Petruccelle (two), Jamie Cripps (two) and Liam Ryan (one).
Cameron, the younger brother of Lions gun Charlie, energised the Eagles in his first game, laying seven tackles and showing confidence with ball in hand.
"It will be exciting if we can somehow fit Cameron, Rioli, Ryan and (Jack) Petruccelle was pretty good tonight as well," Simpson said.
"They brought their defensive intent all night, which once again that really helps what we do and that's probably what's been missing at stages throughout the year."
Most of the focus during the game was on West Coast's wastefulness in front of goal, and a 14.22 (106) to 11.5 (71) scoreline flattered the Bombers, but Simpson hailed his team's defensive mechanisms after coughing up 116 points to Sydney before the bye.
"I was really pleased with the way we played," Simpson said.
"We've been working pretty hard on our defence the last couple of weeks after the Sydney game and I thought going in with that focus against a side like Essendon who are really dangerous, in particular off a turnover, I thought we defended well tonight.
"Yeah, we didn't convert, and that was frustrating but if we play like that every week we'll win some games."
Star spearhead Josh Kennedy was the main culprit in front of the big sticks, returning 3.5, although the dual Coleman medallist was nearly ruled out on Thursday morning due to illness.
Josh Kennedy's radar was off in the first half in particular, kicking 1.5. Picture: AFL Photos
The Eagles have battled to supply their forward line all season, and many believed it would take Naitanui's return and impact around stoppages to fix the issue.
But West Coast piled on 64 entries against Essendon, and Naitanui's expected return after his second knee reconstruction following Saturday's WAFL appearance will add another dimension to a side which is now 9-4 and back into fourth spot.
"The rollercoaster he's been on the last two or three years, it's been tremendous the way he's handled himself and great reward for all the rehab he's done," Simpson said.
"For Nic to come back for us – let's see if he gets through this week first – hopefully he does and then we can talk about it next week.
"We're really proud of the fact he's available."