Adam Simpson says it is the midfield, not the backline, that requires his focus in the lead up to Friday nightâs clash with Carlton.
Scans yesterday revealed that Mitch Brown will require a second knee reconstruction on his left knee after it buckled during the first quarter of the Bulldogs clash in round one, and the 26-year-old looks likely to join fellow defender Eric Mackenzie on the sidelines for the remainder of the year.
Backline will hold up: Kennedy
Despite the absence of two key players in the back half, Simpson told 6PR on Monday night that it is the midfielders who need to stand up.
âObviously we lost Brownie early on, but to be honest I thought our backs held up pretty well over the weekend,â Simpson said.
âThere was probably a little bit too much supply for our liking and we just didnât get it done in the midfield.
âIt was disappointing to lose Brownie - I think it was our second ACL in four games which is not very common - but having said that, I thought our midfield didnât turn up on the weekend.â
Simpson was satisfied with the way the backline operated against the Bulldogs last Saturday night and is confident that he has the players to step up and fill the void left by Mackenzie and Brown.
âThereâs no doubt weâve been challenged in that area, but hopeâs not lost,â Simpson said.
âItâs round one, weâve got an opportunity to develop some players in positions where perhaps they havenât trained in over the pre-season, but I still think weâve got the nucleus there to be really competitive down back.
âFor instance, Elliot Yeo has been playing back for a couple of weeks and I like the way he goes about it and how he competes.
âWill Schofield will more than likely come back this week. Weâve got [Jeremy] McGovern who I think is really starting to blossom into a really solid, consistent player.
âShannon Hurn can play tall, so weâll keep looking at opportunities to develop but also backing the guys weâve got down there at the moment.â
Schofield and Xavier Ellis are likely inclusions to face Carlton on Friday night at Domain Stadium.
The issue with Shannon Hurn playing a lock-down defensive post is the Eagles lose arguably their best attacking weapon.
Hurn had 16 disposals in the first half against the Bulldogs and his elite kicking sliced the opposition open at times. Liam Picken played on Hurn as a defensive forward in the second half and the Eagles' skipper had just six touches after half-time.
Beyond the current back six, which already includes 14-gamer McGovern, a debutant in Jackson Nelson, and two utilities in Yeo and Matt Rosa, the Eagles have very little stocks in reserve.
Jamie Bennell played well in the WAFL on the weekend and may come into calculations if Hurn's role is redefined.
Brant Colledge (192cm, 91kg) and Simon Tunbridge (191cm, 93kg) are strong midfielders who can also play forward, but both could be turned into makeshift defenders if need be.
Tom Barrass (194cm, 88kg), Dylan Main (189cm, 82cm) and rookie Rowen Powell (193cm, 88kg) were all drafted in 2013 and all can play defensive roles, but the trio are currently playing WAFL reserves for East Perth and none are close to playing AFL football at the moment. Barrass and Powell have had significant injury issues since they were drafted.
Rookie Corey Adamson, a former baseballer, is also being developed as a defender, but he too is playing WAFL reserves.
Irish rookie Paddy Brophy has impressed with his competitiveness throughout the pre-season and has started well for East Perth. It would be a big gamble to elevate him, but at 190cm and 87kg he can fight out of his weight division and has exceptional pace.
West Coast will kick off round two with a Friday night blockbuster against Carlton at Domain Stadium.
Simpson said the players were looking forward to running out in front of their home crowd for the first time this season.
âNo one wants to finish round one with a loss and you get a chance to respond on a Friday night and we canât wait,â Simpson said.
âHome crowd, Friday night, you donât get too many of those games. Weâve got to move on really quick and make sure itâs an event not a pattern on the weekend.â
Click on the link below to listen to Adam Simpsonâs full interview with 6PR.