Thursday, March 19, 2009

afl preview: West Coast

Season preview: West Coast -

As the best ruck in the League, Dean Cox is integral to the Eagles' chances in 2009

Rookie elevation: Beau Wilkes
NAB AFL Draft: Jordan Jones (Geelong Falcons), Nicholas Naitanui (Swan Districts), Luke Shuey (Oakleigh Chargers), Ashley Smith (Dandenong Stingrays), Tom Swift (Claremont)
NAB AFL Rookie Draft: Liam Bedford (Geelong), Adam Cockie (Subiaco)

Retired: Michael Braun (veteran – outside list), Jaymie Graham
Delisted: Steven Armstrong, Chad Jones, James Thomson

The Eagles get the longest road trip out of the way early, taking on the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in round one.

West Coast’s two derby matches against Fremantle are in round six and 17, while Carlton’s Chris Judd takes on his former side under the Friday night lights at Docklands in round 10.

Of the 2008 finalists only the Hawks, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs play the Eagles twice.

Adam Hunter (shoulder soreness) – may be available round one
Patrick McGinnity (broken jaw) – will resume training by round one
Adam Selwood (knee) – should play round one
Luke Shuey (groin) – playing by round five or six
Beau Waters (elbow) – will resume modified training in May

5 – Dean Cox, Darren Glass, Daniel Kerr (3 players -- 15 points)
There is no disputing Cox, Glass and Kerr are elite and remain integral to the club's cause. Cox is the best ruckman in the league and Kerr a dynamo in the midfield. Glass, despite a hip injury troubling him in 2008, is still in the top echelon of full backs.

4 – Andrew Embley, Brett Jones, Mark LeCras, Quinten Lynch, Chris Masten, Ben McKinley, Mark Nicoski, Matt Priddis, Adam Selwood, David Wirrpanda (10 – 40 points)
Nicoski and Embley have had injury troubles but remain keys. Jones and Selwood are vastly underrated outside of their footy club. McKinley was one of the top mid-sized forwards last season and LeCras should continue to blossom as a fine small forward. Expect young-gun Masten to step-up considerably this year. Wirrpanda will keep on keeping on.

3 – Mitchell Brown, Sam Butler, Brad Ebert, Chad Fletcher, Ashley Hansen, Tim Houlihan, Adam Hunter, Shannon Hurn, Josh Kennedy, Eric Mackenzie, Jamie McNamara, Matt Rosa, Will Schofield, Mark Seaby, Scott Selwood, Brent Staker, Tyson Stenglein, Matt Spangher, Tom Swift, Beau Wilkes, Adam Cockie (rookie), Ryan Davis (rookie) (22 players – 66 points)
Butler, Rosa, Brown, Ebert and Hurn and more than capable of pushing up, given injury-free runs. Ditto Hansen and Kennedy. Veterans Stenglein and Fletcher will still make contributions. Swift is a first-year young-gun who could surprise; rookies Cockie and Davis will feature. Spangher, Mackenzie and Wilkes should continue to develop; Scott Selwood will progress. Hunter has shoulder concerns.

2 – Patrick McGinnity, Nick Naitanui, Tony Notte, Beau Waters, Callum Wilson (rookie) (5 players – 10 points)
The highly-talked about Naitanui will be a beauty, but a pre-season knee injury has halted his preparation. Waters would normally be higher, but he will miss much of 2009 with an elbow injury. Notte is very promising, but needs further development; McGinnity should play this year, despite fracturing his jaw. Mature rookie Wilson could gain a taste.

1 – Luke Shuey, Ashley Smith, Ashley Arrowsmith (rookie), Liam Bedford (rookie), Jordan Jones (rookie), Lewis Stevenson (rookie), Will Sullivan (rookie) (7 players – 7 points)
West Coast has a quality rookie list, but it does have seven on it, meaning it might be hard for some youngsters to debut in 2009. Still, a host of injuries could leave the door ajar for Arrowsmith, Sullivan and Bedford to debut. Shuey and Smith are fine talents, but time and development is likely to be given to both youngsters in 2009.

Total team rating: 138 (9 of 16, league-wide)

West Coast simply needs to be competitive in 2009 to call the year a success. But in Dean Cox and Daniel Kerr, the club has a star pair in which to build a competitive side around.

The club  looks set to invest heavily in prized draft picks Chris Masten and Brad Ebert this year.

The return of established players Matt Rosa, Sam Butler and Brett Jones – and improvement from Mark LeCras and Matt Spangher – should see the Eagles compete consistently this season and notch some surprising wins.

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