WHERE AND WHEN: Perth Stadium, Sunday, March 25, 4.20pm AWST
West Coast’s new era at Optus Stadium will fittingly kick off against the club’s one-time arch-rival Sydney in a Sunday evening blockbuster to close round one. Hype around the contest has been building since the Eagles won a bitter stoush with Fremantle to host the first game at the 60,000-seat venue, but will go into overdrive now West Coast has confirmed star ruckman Nic Naitanui will make his long-awaited comeback from his knee reconstruction. Naitanui’s return will boost a midfield which was lacklustre last year and has its question marks heading into 2018 without Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell. There will be no better test than against the Swans’ powerful engine room, even without Dan Hannebery (calf). As ever, Lance Franklin looms as the Swans’ trump card and at the other end West Coast could feel the absence of spearhead Josh Kennedy (ankle) in a new-look forward setup.
LAST FIVE TIMES
R4, 2017, West Coast Eagles 13.13 (91) d Sydney Swans 10.5 (65) at Subiaco
R5, 2016, Sydney Swans 12.16 (88) d West Coast Eagles 7.7 (49) at the SCG
R17, 2015, West Coast Eagles 15.13 (103) d Sydney Swans 7.9 (51) at Subiaco
R16, 2014, Sydney Swans 10.19 (79) d West Coast Eagles 7.9 (51) at Subiaco
R17, 2013, Sydney Swans 17.11 (113) d West Coast Eagles 11.13 (79) at Subiaco
HUTTA’S TIP: Sydney by 40
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