WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson has leapt to the defence of Mark Hutchings after Western Bulldogs counterpart Luke Beveridge slammed the Eagles' physicality against Jason Johannisen as "cowardly".
Hutchings had a shutdown role on the star Bulldogs playmaker on Saturday and restricted Johannisen to just 12 touches in a crucial Eagles win at Etihad Stadium.
It continued a trend of opposition teams targeting Johannisen, started by Sydney in round 12.
Beveridge has been concerned by some of the treatment and on Wednesday criticised Hutchings for bumping Johannisen in the back during the first quarter.
"Hutchings ran off the bench without him looking. It's cowardly and we got a free kick from it," he said.
"But he got away with that and 'J' has to put up with that at the moment.
"We're not going to go and belt Hutchings because we are a disciplined side but some of that stuff is a bit concerning.
"A free kick sort of doesn't seem enough."
But Simpson went into bat for Hutchings, who has performed effective stopping roles on Geelong skipper Joel Selwood and Melbourne youngster Clayton Oliver since the bye.
"I wouldn't say it was a cowardly act," Simpson said.
"It's a pretty brutal competition, isn't it? You do what you do within the rules to win the game and I don't think that went outside the rules.
"If it does you give away a free kick.
"You find the line. That's where you push it to, and if you go over it you get reported or give away a free kick and then you keep going.
"I don't have any problem with it."
Simpson was adamant he wouldn't instruct his side to tone down the physicality, pointing out West Coast was criticised early in the season for a perceived lack of toughness.
The Eagles have had a harder edge since the bye, ramping up their tackle pressure and intensity at the contest.
West Coast (8-6) has consolidated a spot inside the top eight and a host of key players are pushing to return from injury against finals rivals Port Adelaide (8-6) this Sunday.
Star spearhead Josh Kennedy (calf), skipper Shannon Hurn (concussion/hamstring) and Matt Priddis (corked quad) appear ready to come straight into the 22.
Although Priddis' form has been under the microscope, Simpson dismissed questions whether he can play alongside fellow veteran Sam Mitchell in midfield due to the duo's lack of pace.
"That's a question I get asked a little bit, but I don't get asked that question after we win," Simpson said.
"No one was asking me after we played the Bulldogs here, or Geelong, or Port Adelaide in Adelaide last time, or St Kilda.
"We don't just stick our head in the sand with it. We need to have a balance of skill, speed and power around our midfield, that's for sure, but that's a win-loss question."
The Eagles' match committee could have some headaches deciding whether to bring back Mark LeCras (hip), Will Schofield (hip), Josh Hill (illness) and Jackson Nelson (hamstring) from stints on the sidelines this round.
Ruckman Scott Lycett is also pushing to play after tallying 67 hit-outs in the WAFL at the weekend.