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West Coast Eagles

Ready to debut

Tom Lamb of the West Coast Eagles in action during the 2015 NAB Challenge Week 4 match between the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers at Patersons Stadium, Perth on March 22, 2015. (Photo: Daniel Carson/AFL Media)
Tom Lamb is among the West Coast draftees shaping up for an early debut
We can see at least three potential first-gamers in the next month or so, safe to say.
Adam Simpson on the 2014 crop of draftees

WEST Coast draftees Liam Duggan, Tom Lamb and Jackson Nelson could all make their AFL debuts in the first month of the season, according to Eagles coach Adam Simpson.

Just one of the Eagles' 2013 draftees, Dom Sheed, played last season but the 2014 group has made a significant impression since arriving at the club.

Lamb and Nelson have played every game in the pre-season and both will be strongly considered for a round one debut against the Western Bulldogs.

Duggan played limited minutes against Port Adelaide in the NAB Challenge and missed the other matches but was impressive for East Perth in his first WAFL match last week.

He racked up 22 disposals and two goals to be close to best afield in East Perth's win over Swan Districts on Saturday.

Simpson said all three were likely to debut within the first month of the season although their round one prospects remain unknown.

"We haven't made a decision (about round one), but they'll play senior football at some stage," Simpson told AFL.com.au.

"Whether it's round one, that's not the be all and end all. But the fact is that both of those kids (Lamb and Nelson) have played every game of the pre-season.

"Liam Duggan performed well at East Perth on the weekend. So we can see at least three potential first-gamers in the next month or so, safe to say."

While it may appear that critical injuries to Eric Mackenzie and Jack Darling and the retirement of Beau Waters have forced the Eagles' hand in turning to youth, the reality is the club is in a development phase of sorts.

It's difficult for an Eagles coach to tell an expectant fan base that is the case.

West Coast fans expect the team to play finals year in year out because they don't know any different.

The Eagles have failed to play finals only nine times in 28 seasons and have never gone longer than three years without an appearance in September.

That leaves Simpson in the unenviable position of trying to embrace that expectation while quietly developing a young list.

"We like to think we're building," Simpson said.

"Through good development with our players and coaches we'll give ourselves every chance to hopefully play finals football.

"Expectations are always there and especially within our club. That's OK. We'll embrace that. We won't die wondering."

Many were critical of the Eagles' lack of involvement in the trade and free agency period last year after missing the finals by one game.

But the since the beginning of 2013 the club has lost six premiership players to retirement. Only Sam Butler remains from the 2006 premiership team.

The Eagles have the seventh-youngest list in the AFL.

"What we're trying to do with our build and our list is we want to build from within," Simpson said.

"So we drafted Liam Duggan and will try and get him up and about. That takes a bit longer but we're going down that path at the moment."

Simpson has also surrounded himself with a young coaching staff, which is in a development phase along with the playing group.

But despite the relative inexperience of his squad and his coaching staff, Simpson holds the same expectations of his group as the fans do.

West Coast faltered in the key moments against top-eight sides last year and he said his players must learn from those experiences.

"I thought there were times last year, and our players have admitted too, that we didn't stand up for long enough," Simpson said.

"We've done a lot of work on that over the pre-season and yes the players have put on a bit of size and strength but that doesn't mean were going to be better.

"It's just they give themselves a good opportunity. We've trained a lot of skill over pre-season as well. It's whether you can do these things under pressure is the next step."

The Eagles' first challenge will be against the competition's fourth-youngest team, the Western Bulldogs, at Etihad Stadium next Saturday night.