VETERAN West Coast defender Will Schofield appears set to earn a finals lifeline after fellow backman Brad Sheppard was ruled out for the rest of the AFL season.
Sheppard’s flag dreams are over for this year after he suffered a significant hamstring injury in last week’s 16-point qualifying final win over Collingwood.
The 27-year-old tore a tendon in his left hamstring while soccering a ball in the first term, and he will be sidelined for up to 12 weeks.
The injury is so bad it may require surgery.
West Coast were already without Nic Naitanui (knee) and Andrew Gaff (suspended) for the finals, and the loss of Sheppard will further test their depth.
Sheppard hasn’t missed a game since 2014, quelling some of the competition’s best small forwards during that time.
His absence looks set to open the door for Schofield, who was unlucky to be dropped on the eve of the finals.
Schofield, a 174-game veteran, has the ability to play on bigs or smalls.
Jackson Nelson and Oscar Allen are other options coach Adam Simpson could use to replace Sheppard.
Simpson said dropping Schofield had been his hardest ever coaching decision, but he praised the 29-year-old for taking the news well.
The Eagles will take on either Hawthorn or Melbourne in a home preliminary final on Saturday week.
© AAP 2018