Taggers vital in AFL blockbuster at SCG

Rob Forsaith

Mark Hutchings and George Hewett are unlikely to feature in many promos for Friday night's AFL blockbuster, but the taggers will have a major say in who wins the SCG showdown between top-four sides West Coast and Sydney.

Hutchings has generally been the Eagles' go-to man for shutdown jobs during their 10-match winning streak, while Swans youngster Hewett has also curbed the influence of some of the league's best players this year.

The challenge for coaches Adam Simpson and John Longmire will be settling on a No.1 target for Hutchings and Hewett, with both teams boasting plenty of on-ballers capable of doing a lot of damage.

"I'm excited to see how our midfield goes against one of, if not the, best midfields in the competition," Eagles midfield coach Sam Mitchell told reporters on Thursday.

"We talk about it every week. Who we're tagging, who's tagging us, potential match-ups and the best way to play against different midfielders.

"It's been a good learning for our boys, to try and either combat a tag or figure out how to tag somebody. It's an interesting part of the game, even if it's probably not the most sexy part for fans to watch.

"We've tried to build a midfield that doesn't rely on a single player. So ... if he (Hewett) goes to one of our players, which we expect him to, then hopefully our collective mix will be able to get it done even if that player has a tough night.

"But we're going to try and help out whoever that is (getting tagged)."

Luke Shuey will return on Friday night from a hamstring injury, further bolstering the visitors' on-ball brigade.

Captain Josh Kennedy headlines a star-studded Sydney midfield that has hurt teams by winning contested footy, but also burnt them with pace and polish.

Elliot Yeo, Jack Redden and Andrew Gaff have been imperative in the ladder-leading Eagles' form, generating perfect service for one of the AFL's most-potent forward lines.

"They're elite runners and really good ball users. They're all having a really big impact; Elliot Yeo is one of my favourite players to watch in the league," Swans great Jude Bolton noted earlier this week.

"Their midfield is firing really well."

Longmire was cagey when asked about who Hewett might head to on Friday, noting "we expect all of our midfielders to have run-with roles when the opposition has got it".