Darling and LeCras have struggled to fire this season, and there’s huge pressure on them to perform tonight against Geelong at Domain Stadium.
With spearhead Josh Kennedy to miss a second-straight match with a calf injury, the Eagles need LeCras and Darling to fill the goalkicking void.
LeCras has managed just 17.15 in 10 games this season, while Darling has returned 19.13.
And when Kennedy was missing in the recent loss to Gold Coast, LeCras and Darling combined for just 18 disposals and 0.1.
Simpson has put his group on notice after three losses in a row, saying there will come a time when he has to axe any underperforming regulars.
And although he’s lost patience with defender Sam Butler and forward Josh Hill, he’s keeping his faith in LeCras and Darling – for now at least.
“LeCras has had a magnificent career. I think there’s still games left in him and there’s still goals and best-on performances left in him,” Simpson said.
“The last couple of weeks have been a bit off.
“But in the Port Adelaide game this year, he kicked three goals in the first quarter – on a travel game where he was exceptional.
“Criticism is part of the game. Getting him in the best form we can is a challenge, but he knows what he’s doing and we’ll back him in this week.”
Darling was tipped for stardom after booting 53 goals in 2012 in his second AFL season.
But he has gone backwards since and costly mistakes in big games have angered supporters.
Simpson said Darling’s poor display against Gold Coast was understandable, given his wife had gone into premature labour just before the match.
Kennedy hoped to make an early return against Geelong, but Simpson said the two-time Coleman medallist didn’t come close to proving his fitness.
Ruckman Scott Lycett will spend another week in the WAFL for more match fitness, while defenders Tom Cole and Tom Barrass have earned recalls against Geelong.
Simpson had wanted to debut Daniel Venables this week, but the No.12 pick from last year’s national draft injured his toe at training.
The Cats are riding high after consecutive wins against the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Adelaide, but they’ll be without suspended spearhead Tom Hawkins and Mark Blicavs (soreness).
Former Saints ruckman Rhys Stanley will fill the void left by Hawkins, while Jed Bews has been handed a recall after overcoming an ankle injury.
Ex-Eagle Scott Selwood will play his first match against his old club, and could get the lockdown role on star West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey.
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