Stop Nick Riewoldt, and you’ll stop St Kilda.
That’s the challenge facing West Coast when they host the Saints in Saturday night’s clash at Patersons Stadium.
Riewoldt has been in irresistible touch over the opening two rounds, with his eight goals and numerous score involvements helping lift the Saints to a surprise 2-0 start.
St Kilda will start as rank underdogs against the ladder leading Eagles.
But if Riewoldt fires on all cylinders, the Saints will be a chance of causing a major upset.
Eric Mackenzie is likely to get first crack on Riewoldt, with Darren Glass and Mitch Brown to be used if plan A doesn’t work.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson said Riewoldt’s early-season form reminded him of when the four-time All-Australian was at his peak.
“I think he’s involved in almost half their scores, whether he’s kicking for goal or setting them up,” Simpson said of Riewoldt.
“If he plays well, they’re a fair chance of winning.
“He’s an A-Grade player.
“I don’t think he’s started the season this well (before). He looks as good as he’s ever looked.
“He’s seemed to have improved his goalkicking. We’re aware of what he can do.”
The Eagles have been talked up as possible top-four contenders following big wins over the Bulldogs and Demons.
But Simpson said he would need at least another month to truly gauge his team’s potential this season.
West Coast will confront Geelong (SS), Port Adelaide (home), Carlton (ES) and Fremantle during that period in what will be their sternest test yet under Simpson.
The rookie coach predicted Saturday’s match against St Kilda would turn into a scrap.
“They’re going to come over to hunt and we’re ready for it,” Simpson said.
“But I don’t think it’s going to be one of those games that just opens up. I think it’s going to be pretty tough.”
Young midfielder Brant Colledge will become the fifth player to make his Eagles debut this season, joining fellow newcomers Xavier Ellis, Dom Sheed, Elliot Yeo and Jamie Bennell.
Colledge, who was snared with pick No. 45 in the 2012 national draft, is a chance to start on the bench.
Simpson said Shannon Hurn’s knee injury meant Brad Sheppard would need to take on more responsibility in defence.