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Simpson assessing forward options

Rhys Dickinson  February 22, 2018 5:15 PM

Simpson press conference 22.02.18 The senior coach takes part in his first press conference at the new Optus Stadium
Could Nathan Vardy play full forward in Josh Kennedy's absence?

Could Nathan Vardy play full forward in Josh Kennedy's absence?

Adam Simpson says a number of Eagles are capable of playing full forward if Josh Kennedy is unavailable for the club’s round one clash against Sydney at Optus Stadium.

Kennedy is working around the clock to regain his fitness following pre-season ankle surgery, but Simpson said the club was developing contingency plans in case he was not ready for the first AFL fixture at Perth’s new sporting cauldron.

“He’s hard to replace, but at the moment we’ve got three or four guys running through there,” he said.

“It’s something we dealt with last year when we missed … JK [Kennedy] for probably five or six weeks. “We learnt some things and some lessons about how we went about things, had some really good successes and some disappointing results as well. We’re a bit more planned than that at the moment.”

Unlike last year, West Coast’s big men are fit and firing this pre-season, and as a result the club has plenty of options to cover the dual Coleman medallist.

Scott Lycett is champing at the bit following an impressive summer, Nathan Vardy is riding a wave of confidence following his most productive season ever, Fraser McInnes is eager to get more senior experience, Jake Waterman and Matt Allen desperately want to make their AFL debuts and Jack Darling has stepped up to play the role in the past.

Simpson said if Nic Naitanui was ready to ruck in round one it could free up Vardy to start in the goal square.

“It’s interesting with Vards. He had to play ruck a lot last year. Hopefully with Nic’s return in the coming weeks we’ll have to get him playing forward a little bit,” he said.

“We are a little bit different than most clubs with our rucks probably not being able to punch out 80-90 per cent on ball, so we need the flexibility with them up forward as well.”

The senior coach also spoke at length about Waterman’s prospects.

“I was pretty keen towards the back end of last year to see (him play), but he was probably just a bit underdone,” he said.

“He’s a natural forward. He’s got those attributes of a natural forward. He’ll have two or three shots at goal a game and he likes to put pressure on.”

All of the aforementioned players – bar Allen who injured his hip flexor last week – will get to audition for the role against Port Adelaide at Leederville Oval on Sunday.