RIDING the "emotional rollercoaster" this season hasn't been easy for West Coast midfielder Dom Sheed.
However, honest chats with coach Adam Simpson helped the 23-year-old turn around his campaign after a sliding doors moment when Andrew Gaff floored Andy Brayshaw in the round 20 Western Derby.
Sheed might have thought he had blown his chance to feature in finals when he was dropped for the third time before the Fremantle clash.
However, Gaff's brain fade and eight-game ban cracked the door ajar again, and Sheed hasn't looked back since.
Nobody could replace Gaff's elite ball use, footy smarts and run, but Sheed has done a job and averaged 27.5 disposals in the past four matches, highlighted by a career-best September display against Collingwood.
In the crucial midfield battle, the left-footer pulled his weight with 27 touches – used at 85 per cent efficiency – and 15 contested possessions, seven clearances, six inside 50s and a goal.
He is now entrenched in an Eagles onball division which faces another huge challenge against Melbourne's Max Gawn-led engine room, with the carrot of a second Grand Final in four seasons dangling in front of them.
"I'm not going to be an All Australian, club champion Andrew Gaff, but I just wanted to come back in and play my role for the team and just be as predictable as I could," Sheed told AFL.com.au.
"That's the main thing, and it's good to be here at the pointy end of the season."
Eagles wingman Chris Masten told AFL.com.au a "kick up the bum" and being sent back to East Perth this year wasn't the worst thing for Sheed.
"Sometimes I need that," Sheed agreed.
"With 'Simmo' and the boys there was some good honest chats, and that's what I got, but I went back to the WAFL and just tried to play some consistent footy.
"It's a massive emotional rollercoaster when you're in your fifth year and you get sent back to the WAFL.
"It plays on your mind a fair bit with your confidence, but you've got to try to park all of that and just play your role for the team.
"I worked on my whole game. I wasn't necessarily playing badly, I just wasn't playing to the standard of what the other midfielders were playing and someone had to be squeezed, and it was me."
After his late-season reprieve, Sheed was among the Eagles' best when the Demons stormed West Coast's fortress in round 22 and booked a finals berth for the first time since 2006.
That victory fueled Melbourne's belief, and Simon Goodwin's outfit will return to Perth on Saturday confident of a preliminary final boilover.
The Dees' explosive midfield commanded clearances (+14) last time, and they are the AFL's No.1 contested ball hunters.
Melbourne dominated the contest (+23) against West Coast without midfield bull Jack Viney, and it is a major focus area for the Eagles this week.
Adam Simpson's side has a perfect 17-0 record this year when their contested possession differential is -11 or better.
They won the count 169-163 in the qualifying final against Collingwood after trailing by eight at three-quarter time, when midfield coach Sam Mitchell's rocket sparked them into action.
"I was there copping a bit of saliva," Sheed said.
"He gave us a good boot up the backside, which was deserving.
"That helped us click into gear for the last quarter, but obviously you don't want your coach coming down onto the field and having to give that spray in the first place.
"I guess it's a bit of a mindset thing and intent.
"We're going to have to be on in that area of the game."