West Coast will be bolstered by the return of electric forward Willie Rioli for Friday night’s clash with the Demons, while ruckman Tom Hickey will line up in the WAFL.
It’s the first meeting between the clubs since the Eagles smashed Melbourne by 66 points in the preliminary final last year, before achieving premiership glory.
Both teams have endured a rocky start to the season but Melbourne need a win sitting at 3-5 and with the lowest percentage of any team to keep themselves in the finals hunt.
It will be Rioli’s first game this year following a foot stress fracture suffered before round one.
Coach Adam Simpson said they have been conservative in the star’s rehab.
“It’s a dangerous thing stress related fractures with feet so we’ve looked after him the best we can,” he said.
“We’ve fallen down across half forward at stages this year. To have him back is quality he’s only young but he plays like a mature-aged player.”
On Tom Hickey, Simpson said he wasn’t confident the ruckman could play out the full game.
“He probably couldn’t coming off a hamstring, so we’re weighing up all those things and that’s the decision we’ve made,” he said.
“We’ve got Vardy who we think is rucking really well and Oscar Allen, the combination is pretty good, he’s giving us something as a forward.”
The clash will also be West Coast’s inaugural Waalitj Dreaming Game with the team sporting their indigenous guernsey a week ahead of the official Sir Doug Nicholls Round launch.
Gates open at 3:55pm with Indigenous musicians and dancers providing entertainment for the match.
There will also be a Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage – march, led by Indigenous students, to Optus Stadium from 4.45pm departing from Gloucester Park’s Bridge Bar.
Bounce down will be at 6:10pm.
Transperth have warned to allow extra time to get to the stadium because event shuttle services will not being running as the game coincides with normal peak hour traffic.
Laura Tomlinson from the Public Transport Authority said this is nothing new.
“Last year, nine special events fell on weekdays, including one AFL match and, as such, special event bus services did not operate,” she said.
“Given the scale of bus services required to operate events at the stadium, there are insufficient buses to run both inbound stadium services and peak hour bus services.
“People will still be able to catch normal services and transfer to train services or the 661 Optus Stadium bus.”
Alternative bus services for the footy can be found here. Special shuttle services will still run as normal post game.
Watch Adam Simpson’s full press conference below.