Jarrod Brander will make his AFL debut
WEST Coast has plumped for top draftee Jarrod Brander to replace injured star Jack Darling, but coach Adam Simpson isn’t ruling out high-flyer Liam Ryan stepping straight into the line-up for Friday night’s blockbuster against Sydney.
Brander, taken with pick 13 in last year’s NAB AFL Draft, has been rewarded for strong WAFL form and will become the Eagles’ seventh debutant this year.
The rangy and smooth-moving 19-year-old has booted 11 goals and averaged 6.6 marks in eight appearances for East Perth, and will be thrown in the deep end against the Swans.
“Obviously, with the loss of Jack, we’re looking for a forward to replace and play that role,” Simpson said.
“It was a toss-up between him and a couple of other guys. Obviously, Fraser McInnes, we know what he can deliver and thought we’d give the kid a go.
“It’s not just this game, he’s our future as well.
“What he brings, he’s got high-end talent.
“He’s got high work rate, big tank, he’s pretty clean and clean on the ground as well.
“I’m not going to pump him up too much, but he’s right to go.”
The Eagles are yet to settle on their final team and will take up to 25 players to Sydney, including Ryan, while defender Will Schofield, whose wife is due to give birth, could travel on a later flight.
Despite confirming Luke Shuey (hamstring) would play earlier this week, Simpson was tight-lipped on Wednesday about the damaging midfielder returning at the SCG.
Hard-running wingman Chris Masten (hamstring) is also available, with the Eagles chopping seven players from their injury list this week.
Ryan hasn’t played since round three against Geelong, but is in the mix to face the Swans after kicking seven majors in an electrifying start to his career.
The spring-heeled goalkicker’s possible return via the WAFL has been complicated by East Perth playing on Saturday, only five days before the Eagles host Essendon.
“It’s not ideal for us,” Simpson said.
“We’ll probably take an extra one or two to Sydney to have that precaution and also the fact we don’t want them playing (WAFL on a five-day break).”
The Swans are the only team to beat the League-leading Eagles this year, with superstar Lance Franklin producing a show-stopping eight-goal performance in round one at Optus Stadium.
“We struggled to handle it. He’s a significant player, but we’ve just got to deal with it,” Simpson said.
“I’m sure some of our boys learnt some of those lessons, but part of it was he was just too good.”
Simpson said his side won’t change their style “too much” on the tight SCG dimensions, where West Coast has only played once since 2010 and has lost six in a row to Sydney.
Friday night’s clash has significant implications for West Coast’s bid to secure two home finals.
If the Eagles can extend their current streak to 11 wins – one shy of the club record – they will be ensconced eight points clear in the top two ahead of the third-placed Swans, who have won five straight.
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS