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Mackenzie flourishes up forward

Rhys Dickinson  May 15, 2017 11:30 AM

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Eric Mackenzie won nine hit outs at East Fremantle Oval on Saturday

Eric Mackenzie ventured into unfamiliar territory during East Perth’s big 87-point win over East Fremantle on Saturday.

The astute defender, who claimed West Coast’s 2014 John Worsfold medal courtesy of his one-on-one stopping power at fullback, strode inside the forward 50m arc ahead of the first bounce at East Fremantle Oval.

Not only did Mackenzie spend the majority of the match in the attacking half, he also assumed the Royals’ ruck mantle forward of the centre square throughout the contest.

While it took more than a half of football for Mackenzie to register his first and goal of the game – the result of a crafty lead, diving contested mark and true set shot from 25m – the 28-year-old tall made his presence down forward from the outset.

Mackenzie crashed packs and used his renowned bodywork to bring the ball to ground and set up several of his teammates’ shots at the big sticks.

He also acquitted himself admirably in the ruck, winning nine hit-outs for the afternoon.

“We decided to mix it up a little bit,” Mackenzie said.

“I couldn’t take a mark to save myself up forward, so I had to go in the ruck and take a few marks from there.

“That is the first time I have rucked since they brought in that new centre circle. I’m not sure how long that’s been there, but that’s pretty telling. It was just something different for me.”

Mackenzie said East Perth was playing with a renewed sense of freedom and confidence on the back of its three-straight wins over Perth, Peel and East Fremantle.

He said senior coach Luke Webster was encouraging the side to win the battle for the ball at the coalface and then move it up the field without fuss.

“It is all about the intent at the contest,” Mackenzie said.

“From that you get the field position. The game is all about field position, so if you can win that battle it goes a long way towards winning the game. That’s really what we are trying to do with the ball movement at the moment.

“If you win the contest, you win the field position battle and you ultimately win the game.”