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  • Writer's pictureJosh Kempton

Eagles in much better place this pre-season

West Coast believe they are much better placed going into season 2023 than they were this time last year.

The Eagles are coming off a horror 2022 campaign where they finished second-last on the ladder with just two wins for the season, following an early-season Covid outbreak and a dreadful run with injury.

General Manager Football of Football Gavin Bell believes the preparation is coming along nicely.

“We’re certainly not over the line yet, there’s still three preseason hit-outs to go with an intraclub, playing Port Adelaide, and then Adelaide,” Bell told Sports Breakfast.

“The fact is that we have a lot of guys that missed football last year and missed big portions of football, so we’ve got to manage it carefully. All of our guys have their individual programs that they work towards, our medical and [strength and conditioning] staff are doing a wonderful job giving us the best chance to start the season in really good condition.

“We also acknowledge as we prepare, injuries do happen, so it’s holding our nerve and understanding these things can happen. We’ve seen injuries around the league as clubs ramp up their competitive work, so it’s a real balancing act.”

Disaster looked to have struck the Eagles’ preparations when key forward Jack Darling, set for a key role this season following the retirement of spearhead Josh Kennedy, went down injured at training last Friday, but coach Adam Simpson confirmed at a press conference yesterday he had avoided serious injury.

Bell said waiting on results of scans was stressful.

“I was watching from the grandstand with my binoculars as they were doing their match play and certainly wondered if it was going to be a broken leg or a really bad ankle that required surgery,” he said.

“We needed to do a fair bit of work to get the scans done and so on, and thankfully we’ve avoided the surgery and we’ve avoided the worst case scenario for Jack and our footy team.

“Whilst it’s going to be a challenge to get him up and get him going, we’re looking forward to having him in the club today and starting that process to hopefully challenge for a spot in round one.”

Promising young forward Oscar Allen missed the entire 2022 season with a foot injury, with Bell saying the club was being cautious with his comeback.

“Oscar’s been fantastic on the track and off the track,” he said.

“We need to manage his training loads and his workloads at this time of year to give him the best chance to have a really strong 2023 season for us, so we’ll manage him his week, he’s unlikely to play any game time this week as we have our final intraclub and work a few things out.

“We just need to look after Oscar, he’s an important player for us now and for our future.”

Bell also said veterans Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo were progressing well after a series of injury-interrupted campaigns.

“They’re the real heartbeat of our team, those guys, and they’ve had their challenges over the last couple of years,” he said.

“We’ll continue to manage Luke. Just rapt that he’s our captain again, he won that from our player vote, and he’ll certainly be a fantastic leader for us again this year.

“Elliot, we’re starting to see some power back in his game. He’s been playing some good midfield minutes, some time down back, he can go forward if we need to as well, so he’s a really important player for us.”

The Eagles will play their final intraclub hit out on Friday night before taking on Port Adelaide in an unofficial preseason game next Friday and coming up against Adelaide in their official practice match on March 3rd.



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