The West Coast Eagles hit the ground running with a large number of players on the track as pre-season lifted a notch during another Perth summer scorcher on Monday.
Refreshed from the Christmas and New Year break, it was time to step things up a gear and the intensity of the playing group and coaches was noticeable from the moment they emerged from within the cavernous indoor training hall at Mineral Resources Park.
With temperatures climbing quickly towards the forecast top of 37 degrees, an industrial fan with water mist was called in to help cool the players off between spirited and competitive training drills.
It was immediately apparent the Eagles had been putting in the work during a time of year many of us are putting the feet up.
Big-bodied midfielders Jai Culley and Greg Clark somehow looked in even better condition than pre-Christmas, despite being among the standout performers during West Coast’s short training block to end 2022.
But they weren’t alone, with ruck Bailey Williams appearing fit and strong as he worked on his craft alongside champion big man Nic Naitanui, who was getting some solid work in after a gradual build into training before the break.
Pleasingly, star Elliot Yeo looked sharp as he wheeled onto his left boot several times to redirect play by hitting difficult kicks that opened up the field for his teammates during competitive transition work.
Yeo was among the standouts, along with hard-working pair Jamie Cripps and Connor West, freshly-shorn and fit-looking Andrew Gaff, coming off a year where he bravely played under duress regularly, and silky-smooth gun Tim Kelly.
Human highlight reel Liam Ryan also caught the eye for more than just his new ‘do’, with his electrifying pace and ability to find time and space where there was none in heavy traffic.
Versatile back Josh Rotham was another who was ready to go from the opening whistle, and he earned coaches’ praise after wrapping up developing tall Jack Williams in a score-saving tackle.
Tackling and competitive drills were a big focus, and few are more proficient in the contested side of the game than Naitanui, although even the 202cm colossus had to draw on all his strength to shrug off determined Dom Sheed in a David v Goliath bout.
Sheed and underrated defender Tom Cole have appeared in terrific shape following seasons wiped out by lower-leg injuries and are among the Eagles leading the squad with their actions. Reigning club champion Tom Barrass also got plenty of running in despite nursing a guard on his injured right hand.
The Eagles’ crop of new draftees also continued to impress as they build their workloads, with Noah Long’s speed and Reuben Ginbey’s size for a teenager impossible to miss.