Mature Eagles ready for the AFL unknown

Justin Chadwick
West Coast coach Adam Simpson believes his AFL squad is equipped to deal with uncertainty in 2020

West Coast coach Adam Simpson hopes the maturity of his list will count in their favour as players across the AFL grapple with the most uncertain period of their lives.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown everyday life into chaos, with sporting leagues all around the world either shutting down completely or scrambling to salvage their respective seasons.

The AFL have already announced they will reduce the 2020 home-and-away season to 17 rounds, while quarters will be reduced from 20 to 16 minutes.

West Coast boast one of the most mature lists in the competition, with about half of their best 22 players already fathers.

Simpson hopes their greater life maturity will hold the team in good stead during the current tumultuous period, starting with Sunday's clash with Melbourne at Optus Stadium.

"The mental side of the game is probably the biggest growth area of our industry, and lots of clubs are putting work into that with mental health as well," Simpson said.

"It's all part of our resilience. Having more of a mature list I'm assuming is a benefit, but you don't know."

Simpson is also interested to see how teams handle the shorter quarters.

The premiership coach believes most teams will opt for just the one ruckman.

The Eagles are still likely to go with a two-pronged ruck attack given Nic Naitanui's horror injury run in recent years and the need to look after him.

Tom Hickey was named in West Coast's extended squad on Thursday, and is expected to survive the final cut.

The Demons have named Kysaiah Pickett and Toby Bedford for their AFL debuts, but they will be without key players Nathan Jones (Achilles) and Christian Salem (glandular fever).

West Coast normally have 55,000-plus adoring fans cheering them on for games at Optus Stadium.

To help his players get adjusted to the lockout, Simpson banned music from Thursday's training session at the venue in a bid to recreate what the players will confront on Sunday.

Although fans won't be there in person, Simpson has reminded his players that there will be millions of eyes glued to TV screens all around the country.

"It gives us an opportunity to put a smile on some people's faces who might be going through some tough times with work and situations at home," Simpson said.

"That's an honour for us. It's a good chance to lead. I'm proud to be part of that."