WEST Coast is maintaining an eye on its future list demographic and won't put its "head in the sand" when it comes to regeneration as it fights to turn 2021 into a successful season with its ageing stars in the team.
The seventh-placed Eagles have found their top-eight spot under threat after their fourth loss by 45 points or more in an inconsistent season that has cast doubt on their ability to eventually take advantage of a finals spot.
EAGLES' BIGGEST PROBLEM Key stat doesn't bode well for West Coast
Coach Adam Simpson said the Eagles were still positioned to have a successful season if they could fix their issues, which he said related to "selection, style of play, energy (and) effort".
But while securing a finals spot was the focus, the club was aware of its need to both develop its existing young players and regenerate its list, most likely through the NAB AFL Draft, where they haven't selected a player in the first-round since talented tall Jarrod Brander in 2017.
"Trying to keep an eye on the future is always there for us and developing some of our younger players is something that we’re aware of," Simpson said on Friday.
"We still think there are some core young players in our group who are going to develop into some really good long-term players for us.
"But replacing Shannon Hurn, Nic Naitanui, and Josh Kennedy and these types, they’re legacy players for our footy club. That’s the big challenge for us, can we keep producing those type of players in the future?
"Quite often you have to do it through the draft, so we’re aware of all that. We know where we’re at, we don’t stick our head in the sand. That’s all part of the planning, it’s just not going to be done in one week."
Simpson said the Eagles had given exposure to young players this season, including midfielder Xavier O'Neill (eight games), Luke Edwards (six), Luke Foley (four) and mid-season recruit Connor West (three).
Selection ahead of Monday night's clash against Melbourne at Optus Stadium would be about balancing opportunities for young players and picking the best possible team to beat the Demons.
"We’ll find that balance at match committee today, but some of our senior players who might not be in the best of form, they haven't let us down for too long for too often," Simpson said.
"We’d like to think there’s still plenty of good years left in some of our older players."
Captain Luke Shuey (calf), key defender Tom Barrass (hamstring) and star forward Liam Ryan (hamstring) remain unavailable, but the Eagles were hopeful they would recover in time for the round 22 Western Derby.
That match will be played off a short break for the Eagles, given their Monday night clash against the Demons.
Asked about the looming ruck match-up between Naitanui and Melbourne captain Max Gawn, Simpson said a really good battle loomed that would shape the midfield contests.
He said Naitanui's form would justify selection in this year's Therabody AFL All-Australian team.
"Nic’s probably been as good as anyone in the league again. I think his All-Australian form is stacking up from last year," Simpson said.
"And Max is the same, he’s been playing the same type of football for a number of years now and seems to be handling the captaincy really well with the responsibility of what he does.
"I think Nic has been one of the better players in the competition, not just ruckmen. I might be a little bit biased on it, but I’d be picking him straight away."