AFL 1 year ago

Sam Mitchell stars as Eagles beat Demons

  • Sam Mitchell stars as Eagles beat Demons

    PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 30: Scott Lycett of the Eagles contests a boundary throw in against Matthew Leuenberger of the Bombers during the 2016 AFL Round 14 match between the West Coast Eagles and the Essendon Bombers at Domain Stadium on June 30, 2016 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media)

West Coast coach Adam Simpson hopes he will be a step closer to solving his ruck puzzle when Jonathan Giles makes his return in the Eagles' pre-season clash with Melbourne at Domain Stadium.

Simpson has some tough decisions to make on the ruck front on Thursday ahead of the season opener against North Melbourne on March 26.

Nic Naitanui is set to miss most - if not all - of the season with a knee injury, leaving a huge hole in the ruck department.

Simpson is hopeful Scott Lycett (knee) will be available for round one, but he is far from a certain starter.

Former Kangaroos forward Drew Petrie and ex-Cat Nathan Vardy were drafted in over the summer to bolster the club's ruck stocks, while Giles is also pushing for a round-one berth after recovering from a thumb injury.

Petrie and Vardy were handed the ruck duties during last week's big win over Fremantle, and have been picked for the Demons clash.

Giles will also play while Lycett will line up for WAFL side East Perth this weekend.

Simpson has been pleased with the output of Vardy and Petrie, although neither player is considered to be a first-choice ruckman.

"Vardy's a forward-ruck. The last two games he's started in the ruck, which is unique for Nathan," Simpson said.

"He's embraced that role. Drew's the same - both of them haven't played ruck too often.

"They might lack a little bit of height, but they compete really well and they follow up as well as anyone.

"And hopefully we get some goals out of them up forward as well."

Lycett carried a knee injury for the second half of last year, before undergoing surgery at the end of the season.

There were fears Lycett might miss the start of the season, but the 24-year-old has progressed well in recent months and is now ready for match action.

The Eagles have named a near full-strength squad against the Demons in what shapes as a dress rehearsal for the season proper.

And Simpson was quick to put his players on notice.

"There's spots up for grabs. The boys know that," Simpson said.

"There's probably 25 to 30 players who have legitimately put up their hand over pre-season through work rate and performance at training. Now it's about doing it on game day."

The Demons named Jack Watts for the match after he improved his training standards in recent weeks.

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