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West Coast Eagles

Redden says Eagles ruck battle heating up

Redden press conference 04.02.19 Eagles midfielder Jack Redden talks to the Perth media ahead of Monday's training session

West Coast Eagles midfielder Jack Redden says the battle for the club’s No.1 ruck spot is heating up as the JLT Community Series draws near.

Premiership player Nathan Vardy and off-season recruits Tom Hickey and Keegan Brooksby have been locking horns on the training track while 2012 all-Australian Nic Naitanui works his way back to full fitness following his second knee reconstruction.

Naitanui revealed last week that he was hoping to return before West Coast’s round 13 bye, but the exact date of his comeback will become clearer once he resumes full training in the coming weeks.

In the meantime the club’s other big men have been duking it out in the hopes of getting picked for the club’s first pre-season game against Geelong  at Leederville Oval on March 1.

Redden said Vardy and Hickey were having some particularly hard-fought encounters during the summer slog.

“It's a bit like Scotty Lycett and Vards last year – they trained really well and pushed each other and that's why they had good years," Redden said of Vardy and the ex-Saint’s pre-season clashes.

"Hick's has had a good impact since he's been here. He's a different type of ruckman, he gets on the move a lot.

“He’s a really good runner and good endurance runner. He gets around the ground really well and he gets on the move and makes it tricky. He’s a good tap ruckman and works his opponent over.

"Vards is an honest competitor and he works really hard, so it's hard to pick (a starting ruckman) yet, but you've seen what Vards has done last year."

West Coast’s midfield group is well versed with Vardy’s hitout skills, but Redden admitted they were still getting used to Hickey’s stoppage work.

“At the start (of pre-season) we were trying to get used to him and get to know him as much as possible, but it’s just understanding what his strengths are, where he likes to hit it and adjusting to that as a team,” Redden explained.

"We have good conversations about what he wants to do and what he wants us to do.

"Early days, he was probably hitting it a little bit too hard and we had to adjust to that.”

Redden did not bite when queried about Champion Data recently rating West Coast’s premiership-winning midfield as the fourth weakest in the competition ahead of season 2019.

The 28-year-old said playing as a unit, not statistical rankings, would determine how the on-ball brigade performed this year.

“We got the results last year because we were playing good team footy," Redden said.

"We've got some stars through the midfield and then we've got some great role players through there as well, so I think we've got a really good mix.

"We don’t mind being in that position, not being (rated as) an A-grade midfield.

"We all know our roles and we had success last year.”