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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Ruthven

Eagles opt for extra flexibility offered by two ruckmen

West Coast forward coach Matthew Knights says having two ruckmen offers extra flexibility to his side in the upcoming season. 

Former Giant Matt Flynn headed west during the Free Agency period, lured by the prospect of being No.1 Ruckman following Nic Naitanui’s retirement. 

He and Bailey Williams are both vying for that first ruck position, with West Coast appearing to lean more towards Flynn taking that spot, with Williams rotating forward and being second in command. 

Knights told SportFM there is space in the side for both rucks, as they offer different traits to the side. 

“I know that [Adam Simpson] is open-minded about playing two rucks, but I think we're given a real go at the moment that Bailey’s starting forward, and Flynn is taking the first ruck,” he said.

“Bailey virtually carried the whole load last year or the majority of it. He's in a good really good space that when he comes up into the ruck, he might be able to go against the second ruckman for the opposition or some teams are not even playing a second ruck, that they're playing a quasi-second ruck. 

“Bailey should be able to get an advantage against those guys, particularly at the centre bounces. It gives us extra flexibility. 

“Matty Flynn's come in from GWS, he's a really intelligent footballer, he understands the game and I know Schoey and Luke Shuey are really enjoying working with Flynny. He's a student of the game. 

“They're contrasting players like Bailey's a real jumper, an athletic ruckman whereas when Flynny's a bit more craftier. So they're quite diverse which is good to have two of them going together.” 

Up forward, Knights is focused on development and striking the right balance within the side. 

Over the off-season, small forward Tyler Brockman moved back to Perth during the trade period after playing 26 games for Hawthorn. Meanwhile, Ryan Maric - pick one of 2023’s Mid-Season draft, is completing his first AFL preseason despite playing 10 games last season. 

Getting Brockman and Maric acclimatised with West Coast’s forward structure is another priority of Knight’s.

“What we've done with the forward half is we're looking to just keep the synergy up, just make sure that we keep rotating the teams, so we get different players playing with each other,” said Knights.

“A priority for myself might be that Tyler Brockman, who's new to the club, gets to play enough with Noah Long and Crippa so he understands the running patterns of those guys and you might want Ryan Maric to keep learning and developing playing with Oscar and Bailey Williams.

“It's a really important element that you do get that balance right as a coach to try and keep that synergy with the players and, at the moment, it's really pleasing with that forward group. 

“It's had a good training block and they're competing for spots, which doesn't make it easy as a coach because you really have a great relationship with all your players. You want them all to be able to play AFL.” 

The forward group is currently training without Jack Darling, who has been sidelined with a hamstring issue. 

Knights called it a ‘minor blip’ for the key forward and says he is heading onto the track today.

“He's progressing really well and it's just a small little hurdle for Jack,” he said.

“He's had a terrific preseason, some of his intensity and speed on the track has been really refreshing and he's had a good block of training for the last two months, so it's just a minor blip on the radar for Jack. 

“He'll do a session this morning and he'll be back playing, competing in match simulation, training, you know pretty soon I would have thought in the next week or two, so really positive from that perspective.”



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