- from afl.com.au
THERE is "still a pulse" in West Coast's season, but coach Adam Simpson acknowledges his team will have to navigate a number of challenges if it is to clinch a finals berth.
The Eagles led by three points at every change against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, but just as they did in round 18 at the same venue against Collingwood, they failed to hold on to the lead and tumbled to a devastating eight-point loss.
West Coast remains ninth on the AFL ladder, but is equal with Essendon, Melbourne and the Saints on 10 wins and nine losses with three games remaining.
"That was a big one, but there's still a pulse," Simpson said.
"The boys are pretty tight at the moment. They're pretty galvanised and despite all the outside noise they're still having a go.
"We'll go in with a real positive mindset this week."
West Coast's problems against the Saints stemmed from its inability to again close out a close game.
Its lack of midfield depth and under-sized players battling above their weight division in the ruck also underlined the issues the side is facing.
The Eagles were -34 in contested possessions in the final quarter, while the final tackle numbers (50-81) and clearance statistics (30-42) did not paint a pretty picture for Simpson's side.
Veteran midfielder Matt Priddis will return to the side for the club's do-or-die clash with Carlton at Domain Stadium next Saturday night after being a "travelling emergency" for the match against the Saints.
Defender Tom Barrass, who missed the game against the Saints with a groin issue, should also be fit to take on the Blues.
"We 'managed' him (Priddis), a bit like we did with (Sam) Mitchell a few weeks ago (against Collingwood)," Simpson said.
"Pridda's fine. He's all in as well. That's a non-issue for us. He came over and was in the (coaches') box doing the role that Sam did a few weeks ago.
"We missed him at stages today but we need to continue to grow, and he'll get an opportunity this week."
After being beaten comprehensively in hit-outs (23-53) against St Kilda, Simpson said the club would look at personnel changes in the ruck department with in-form Blues ruckman Matthew Kreuzer coming to town.
Big men Nathan Vardy, Jonathon Giles and Fraser McInnes will all be looked at by the Eagles' selection committee, but Simpson conceded there was "no quick fix" with Nic Naitanui sidelined with a knee injury.
Veteran Drew Petrie was left to ruck almost solo against Billy Longer, and although the former Roo had his moments, Longer's height and bigger body was telling.
"We tried something last week and we thought it paid off for us and we tried it again this week and, in the end, the ruck department has been an issue all year," Simpson said.
"We've tried a variety of personnel. We thought we'd try to play a bit more of a running side. I thought Drew had his moments, but it was difficult to do that all day and unfortunately we couldn't get it done."
Despite another disappointing loss on the road, a frustrated Simpson said his side would be doing everything it could to keep its season alive.
"We're up the fight. Unfortunately, we just can't get over the line," Simpson said.
"That's another game where we were in front at three-quarter time. We're doing a lot of things right but we just can't get that four-quarter game."