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Fledglings could lead Eagles' attack

Travis King,  March 11, 2018 8:30 PM

Simpson post-match v Dockers West Coast coach Adam Simpson says the midfield needs to improve its output
Jake Waterman could make his debut against Sydney in round one

Jake Waterman could make his debut against Sydney in round one

West Coast is preparing to take a raw forward line into the season opener against Sydney after spearhead Josh Kennedy ruled himself out of contention.

Kennedy isn't rushing back from ankle surgery and might not return until the Eagles host Geelong at Optus Stadium in round three.

"We're probably looking at around round three, I think, which is on target at the moment," Kennedy told Fox Footy on Sunday.

"We've just got to get through training, it's been pulling up really well.

"Fitness is getting there. I've just got to keep increasing the training loads.

"Round three, hopefully round two maybe, but we'll see how we go."

The news is a blow to the Eagles, who booted only five goals in a bruising 62-point loss to Fremantle on Sunday in the JLT Community Series.

West Coast's midfield was overrun by the powerful Dockers engine room, and supplied the forward line with just 33 inside 50s.

However, the return of star ruckman Nic Naitanui could be a much-needed boost for round one.

Naitanui pulled up well after impressing in his comeback for East Perth on Saturday after nearly 19 months on the sidelines recovering from a knee reconstruction.

"He had no issues with the knee, no swelling, so we'll just have to assess how he travels throughout the week and see what we do in the following weeks," coach Adam Simpson said.

"There's a game there (he could play for East Perth on Saturday). We were pretty happy with what he did yesterday, but we'll just have to weigh up and see how he trains throughout the week and what levels he can get to.

"He covered a fair bit of distance, I think he played 50 or 60 minutes, but we just have to see what we do to progress, maybe, round one.

"But if it's not round one, round two."

The Eagles could have a number of debutants in round one, particularly in attack with Jake Waterman, Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli in strong contention.

Ex-Subiaco small forward Ryan seems likely after appearing in all three pre-season games, although the Eagles will be sweating on Rioli's fitness.

Rioli rolled an ankle against the Dockers and didn't feature after quarter-time, meaning he has only one full pre-season hit-out under his belt. 

Jake Waterman is firming after two impressive displays in a row, with the father-son product working hard for his 11 possessions and a goal against Freo.

"Waterman's had a really good block of pre-season," Simpson said.

"He missed a chunk of last year. There was 33 inside 50s today – that's a concern – we've got some supply issues at the moment.

"But I thought he didn't look like he was out of it today."