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Mix of youth and experience to battle Dockers

Gary Stocks  March 8, 2018 1:00 PM

Scott Lycett and Fraser McInnes will head up West Coast's ruck department on Sunday

Scott Lycett and Fraser McInnes will head up West Coast's ruck department on Sunday

The West Coast Eagles will take a vastly more experienced team into Sunday’s final JLT Community Series match against Fremantle at HBF Arena in Joondalup, but there will still be a strong flavour of youth in its composition.

Captain Shannon Hurn, joint vice-captain Luke Shuey, forwards Jack Darling, Mark LeCras and Jamie Cripps, midfielders Jack Redden and Andrew Gaff, as well as dual all-Australian defender Jeremy McGovern, all return to the team.

At this stage it is a 30-man squad that will be reduced to 26 tomorrow afternoon, but exciting forward prospects Jake Waterman, Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli, key position player Jarrod Brander, midfielder Daniel Venables, half-back Francis Watson and utility player Brayden Ainsworth have all made the initial list.

None of those seven players, recruited to the club in the last 18 months, has played semior football, but they all have claims for early opportunities in the early stages of the 2018 season proper.

Watson has been engaged in each of the pre-season hit-outs, including the AFLX experiment at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium, in conjunction with Ainsworth, Venables and Waterman.

Ryan did not play AFLX as he was awaiting the arrival of his first child and Rioli missed the opening JLT fixture against Port Adelaide with a knock to the knee, while Brander also missed the clash with the Power.

All of those seven players have shown they have the credentials to succeed at the elite level, giving rise to excitement and optimism within the club.

McGovern will return to the back half to play important minutes after making an early exit in his only pre-season appearance against Port. He received a knock to the head in the first quarter against the Power, a clash that resulted in star Port forward Robbie Gray receiving a one-game suspension.

This match will represent the last opportunity for many players to press for round one selection, so it should be close to premiership season intensity.

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