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Petrie in line for round one debut

Travis King, AFL.com.au  March 21, 2017 8:00 AM

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Drew Petrie is likely to share West Coast's ruck duties with ex-Cat Nathan Vardy

Former North Melbourne champion Drew Petrie is set for an emotion-charged return to face his old teammates when he makes his West Coast debut in Sunday's round one clash.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson has confirmed the 34-year-old will be picked – and almost certainly partner ex-Geelong big man Nathan Vardy – for the ruck battle against Roos star Todd Goldstein at Etihad Stadium.

Vardy and Petrie were both recruited as insurance to cover West Coast's depleted ruck stocks during the off-season after Nic Naitanui (ACL) and Scott Lycett (PCL) underwent knee reconstructions.

Naitanui will miss most of the year, while Lycett's hopes of playing in the season-opener were dashed when he dislocated his left shoulder in his comeback game for East Perth on March 11.

The Eagles' only other recognised ruckman, Jonathan Giles, has played two games for the Royals after a thumb setback but won't face the Roos.

"It's been unfortunate for us with Scott coming back from his knee and hurting his shoulder and then obviously Jonathan Giles hurting his thumb during pre-season … it's just not quite ready yet," Simpson told Channel Seven.

"So we'll go in with Drew. He'll play his first game for the club on the weekend."

It completes a stunning six months for Petrie, who booted 428 goals from 316 games for North before he was one of four veteran Roos axed in a shock cull at the end of last season.  

Despite being given no guarantees of a regular spot, he was coaxed to Perth for – in all likelihood - one last season and a final shot at a premiership by former Kangaroos teammates Simpson and Brady Rawlings, the Eagles' list manager.

Petrie joined the Eagles in last year's rookie draft and will be upgraded to the senior list this week.

He and Vardy, both regular forwards at their former clubs, have been tutored by champion ruckman Dean Cox over summer and competed strongly against Melbourne's All Australian giant Max Gawn during the Eagles' final JLT Community Series clash.

While West Coast's ruck duo appears locked in, Simpson's defensive setup remains uncertain.

The Eagles only played two key defenders in their JLT match against Melbourne, with rejuvenated 2014 club champion Eric Mackenzie partnering Jeremy McGovern.

But emerging star Tom Barrass kept the pressure on with an outstanding intercept marking display in East Perth's loss to Peel in their WAFL season-opener on Saturday night.

The 21-year-old also proved his versatility by booting two goals after being swung forward to start the final term.

Running back Will Schofield (21 disposals) and 2006 premiership defender Sam Butler (35) were also rock solid in the Royals' scrappy performance.