There will be selection heartache at West Coast this week, but Oscar Allen is set to escape the dreaded axe.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson will have plenty on his mind when he selects his team for Thursday night’s elimination final against Essendon at Optus Stadium.
The return of Nic Naitanui from an ankle injury will bring a smile to Simpson’s face, but Shannon Hurn’s hamstring niggle has thrown a spanner in the works.
If Hurn doesn’t play, Simpson faces the tough call of whether to recall veteran Will Schofield, or simply shift Allen to defence.
Allen has played mostly as a forward-ruckman this season but won’t be needed in the ruck now that Naitanui will join forces with Tom Hickey.
If Hurn does play, it means Allen will likely play as a permanent forward, and fellow spearhead Jake Waterman could face the axe.
Defender Liam Duggan and speedy forward Jack Petruccelle are others who face a nervous wait to see if they can retain their spots.
Schofield could come in for Duggan if Simpson opts for more experience.
Petruccelle went goalless from just seven disposals in the 38-point loss to Hawthorn, and could be replaced by Jarrod Cameron.
Simpson said it’s always tough delivering bad news to a player during the finals.
“Every year you have a difficult conversation with players who find themselves out of the side,” Simpson said.
“Whether it’s coming back from injury too late, or their form drops off at the wrong time, or a more experienced player comes into the side – that’s all part of the gig.”
Schofield performed brilliantly after being recalled for last year’s finals series following Brad Sheppard’s hamstring injury.
But whether he’ll get the chance to perform some more September magic remains to be seen.
“The balance is with the talls – how many talls can you bring into the side?” Simpson said.
“That’s always a challenge for Schoey. He’s been a tremendous role model, athlete, teammate, clubman. We wouldn’t have a problem if he comes in.”
Some doubts have been raised as to whether Allen will keep his spot.
But Simpson is a big fan of the 20-year-old’s versatility, which should give him the edge over Waterman in a selection battle.
“His flexibility, that’s probably more of a bonus for a guy in his second year of football to hold up like he has and play multiple roles,” Simpson said.
“It’s great for our future.”
Essendon are set to name Michael Hurley despite his recent shoulder dislocation, while skipper Dyson Heppell (foot), Cale Hooker (illness), Orazio Fantasia (hip), and Jake Stringer (hamstring) will all return.