West Coast midfielder Andrew Gaff says the pain of last season’s shock finals exit has driven the group to greater heights over summer.
The Eagles were the hottest of favourites to dispose of the Western Bulldogs in last year’s elimination final in Perth.
But West Coast’s flag hopes were brought to a crushing halt at the first hurdle when they suffered a shock 47-point loss.
The Bulldogs went on to win the premiership and Gaff said the pain of his team’s finals flop still burned strongly.
“It hurts,” Gaff said.
“It hurt after that night and it hurt to see the Bulldogs go all the way after that because you just don’t know what might have happened if you’d managed to get through that Thursday night final.
“It gives you great motivation for the off-season break. We’ve used it as inspiration. It’s now finally time to put it into action. Talk’s cheap until round one.”
Although West Coast will be without star ruckman Nic Naitanui for most of the season, their midfield brigade has been bolstered by the arrival of four-time premiership Hawk Sam Mitchell.
Gaff is confident West Coast’s best football is good enough to beat any other team in the competition but he said it was important for everyone to stand tall in the big moments.
“The midfield struggled at times last year and we’re not relying on Sam (Mitchell) to do anything more than he has over the years,” Gaff said.
“But with the improvements of guys like Dom Sheed, Elliot Yeo, Liam Duggan, Mark Hutchings, as well as everyone on the list we feel that our best footy can beat anyone.”
West Coast coach Adam Simpson has named a strong squad for the Dockers outing.
Mitchell and former North Melbourne forward Drew Petrie will make their Eagles debuts, while Matt Priddis, Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey, Gaff, Jeremy McGovern, Mark LeCras, and recently re-appointed skipper Shannon Hurn have also been included.
Gaff said the players would use the match to help shore up their spots in the side, with the midfield battle for positions set to be particularly heated.
“We probably let ourselves down in the midfield last year,” Gaff said.
“To have Mitch come in and with the improvement of the younger guys over Christmas and the summer time, these games are like auditions for a lot of the boys.”
Gaff said he was thrilled to be elevated into West Coast’s leadership group.