West Coast will be fighting to keep their finals hopes alive when they take on Collingwood at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.
One run-with player is rarely enough to stop Scott Pendlebury, so West Coast will tap into the spirit of four taggers in a bid to halt the Collingwood skipper in Sunday’s AFL clash at Patersons Stadium.
Pendlebury is one of the favourites to win this year’s Brownlow medal, with his hot form helping Collingwood stay in the finals race.
West Coast sit two wins adrift of the eighth-placed Magpies, with the logjam from 6th to 12th placing further importance on Sunday’s game.
Eagles midfielder Mark Hutchings is set to be handed the daunting task of manning Pendlebury.
Hutchings was only handed West Coast’s tagging role a month ago when Scott Selwood and Sharrod Wellingham succumbed to season-ending injuries.
The 23-year-old former Saint has thrived in the role, restricting the influence of Brisbane’s Pearce Hanley, Richmond’s Trent Cotchin and Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield in recent weeks.
Hutchings revealed he had been tapping into plenty of sources to find out the most effective ways to stop the competition’s star players.
Teammate Scott Selwood and retired Eagle Adam Selwood have given him plenty of tips.
And West Coast assistant coach Brady Rawlings, who was one of the competition’s best taggers during his 245-game career at North Melbourne, has also been in Hutchings’ ear.
“To have those three blokes help out is fantastic, because they have had experiences on some of the blokes that I am playing on,” Hutchings said.
Collingwood are sweating on the fitness of their own tagger Brent Macaffer, who injured his ankle in Sunday’s win over Port Adelaide.
Hutchings is excited about taking on Collingwood’s star-studded midfield, but says he wants to be known as a clean tagger.
“Now more than ever the umpires are looking at things off the play, looking at negative tactics. So you’ve got to be really careful,” Hutchings said.
“You’ve got to be playing within the rules because there’s nothing worse than to give away stupid free kicks. It just hurts the team.
“I’ll be doing anything legally to get the job done and to stop the influence of these opponents.”
Hutchings feared his AFL career might be over when he was dumped by St Kilda at the end of 2010.
But West Coast threw him a lifeline at the end of 2012 after Hutchings produced two standout seasons in the WAFL.
Hutchings has played the past eight games for West Coast, and his strong displays as a tagger is set to earn him a prized contract extension.
Not that he’s taking anything for granted.
“My whole footballing career I’ve never been the star player or guaranteed of anything, and this sport owes me nothing,” Hutchings said.
“It’s something that I’ve just gotten used to and I sort of relish that.”