Winning the contested footy and pushing through the fatigue factor were key focuses as the West Coast Eagles were put through some searching match simulation work on Friday.
As the build towards pre-season games and round one continues, the intensity at training has climbed a notch or two and there were no holds barred in two-and-a-half hours on the track.
Starting with a long warm-up, the players were constantly moving, battling for possession and honing their skills under duress and pressure at Mineral Resources Park, before breaking into four short and sharp quarters of match simulation.
It might ‘only’ have been 29 degrees forecast in Perth, a slight reprieve from the scorching weather in recent weeks, but there was little respite for the players.
With a host of WAFL Eagles stepping in to fill out the teams and learn the West Coast way ahead of their season, there was a clear delineation between a strong senior-listed team and younger side with a sprinkling of AFL players.
In fiercely-contested match sim, the toughness of Connor West, power of Jack Darling and class of Willie Rioli were some of the key takeaways.
Darling took full advantage of some quality delivery, marking strongly on the lead and nailing three goals, with a bearded Oscar Allen providing strong support as veteran spearhead Josh Kennedy stood out of the action.
Rioli featured in the same attack as the twin towers and his pressure and speed – of foot and mind – was enough to get onlookers excited for the silky goalsneak’s return in 2022, while a trim Jamaine Jones was also heavily involved offensively.
Meanwhile, West looks lean and hungry for more after a taste of the elite level last year, when he played five games in a whirlwind finish to the year after being drafted as a mid-season rookie.
The West Perth product is not wasting his first full pre-season with the Eagles and has been a standout on the track with his running power, but also his unrelenting attack on the football or the man in possession.
West worked in unison with the usual suspects in the first-choice midfield, with skipper Luke Shuey’s dynamism breaking away from traffic notable alongside Tim Kelly’s silky skills and time with the ball, plus Dom Sheed's unerring ability to be where the ball is more often than most.
Emerging mid Xavier O’Neill was another to find plenty of the football in an encouraging sign ahead of his fourth season, while Andrew Gaff was typically prolific as he motored up and down the wings.