West Coast leader Liam Duggan says the spirit and energy shown against North Melbourne was a promising sign there will be brighter days ahead when the Eagles playing stocks regroup.
While the Eagles fell narrowly short of securing the premiership points, the team showed resilience and character to overcome 14 changes from the round one side – mostly due to the AFL’s Health and Safety Protocols - and push the Kangaroos all the way.
“It was one of the more enjoyable games that I’ve been part of in my time at the footy club, which I think speaks volumes how the club, staff and all of us players were able to handle the week,” Duggan said.
“I think the new blokes brought a lot of energy. We had some first gamers that are on our list as well that got an opportunity too.
“We’ve really built a good culture around that at the moment, and the sense of belonging, and that’s held us in good stead to play some good footy, albeit under some pretty trying circumstances.
“The vibe around the group is really good and we just can’t wait to be back together fully because I think we’re building on something pretty good here.”
Duggan said the Eagles are adopting a wait-and-see approach to the availability of players currently in isolation for Sunday’s huge RAC Derby, and was grateful to the five COVID Contingency List players who ran out in blue and gold last Sunday at Marvel Stadium.
“The boys are back at work, so it was a bit of an eye-opener, we had the boys in yesterday to do some screening, and half of them were in their work kits,” Duggan said.
“For us to see that, the effort and sacrifice they made over the weekend for us, to put their lives on hold and come and play some good footy for us we were obviously really appreciative of that.”
Coming back from major knee surgery, Duggan pulled up well from his first competitive hit-out since last July against Collingwood, just battling the bruises and soreness that come with top-level football.
The 25-year-old built into the contest nicely, finishing with 18 typically composed touches and kicking a nice long-range goal in the second term to keep the Eagles' momentum going.
“I’m pretty generally sore, as I’d be expecting, so nothing out of the ordinary to any other game that I’ve played in the past, which was nice,” Duggan said.
“I was able to play some managed minutes during the game, albeit a few more than I would’ve played in the WAFL, but the strength and conditioning staff looked after me quite a bit and some of the boys carried the load in the backline for me, which was good of them as well.
“So I’ve pulled up pretty well.”
The 2018 premiership defender is looking forward to the challenge against Fremantle, who reclaimed the RAC Derby trophy last time the teams met.
“I think we’re in a really good position with what we’ve built on the last few weeks to attack Freo and take it right up to them,” Duggan said.
“The confidence here is high, the belief is high, and we just need to bring it out and show it on Sunday.”