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West Coast Eagles

Simpson not settled on Sheppard's replacement

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 26:  Eric Hipwood of the Lions  is pressured by the defence of Will Schofield of the Eagles during the round 23 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the West Coast Eagles at The Gabba on August 26, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images/AFL Media)
Will Schofield is one of several Eagles in the running for a preliminary final call up

Veteran Eagles defender Will Schofield is in the box seat to take Brad Sheppard’s spot but he is far from a certain starter for next Saturday’s preliminary final at Optus Stadium, according to Adam Simpson.

West Coast’s match committee will be tasked with selecting a suitable replacement for Sheppard, whose season was cruelly cut short after he sustained a severe hamstring injury during the opening exchanges of the club’s qualifying final win over Collingwood.

The 27-year-old is a proven big game performer who is usually sent to the opposition’s most dangerous forward to limit their impact.

Schofield has performed terrifically this year, bouncing back from a trying 2017 campaign to register 10 quality games in blue and gold.

Simpson admitted he was unlucky to miss last weekend’s bout with the Pies.

However, that does not mean he has been given the green light to play in the preliminary final.

The senior coach said several other players, including wily defender Jackson Nelson and uncapped backman Francis Watson, were in contention for the Grand Final qualifier.

“Every game he’s played, he’s been pretty consistent,” Simpson said about Schofield.

“He’s a role driven player that gets the job done. That’s why the decision (to omit him) last week was really hard because in big games you like those type of players in your side. He was stiff to miss out.

“We just need to look at who we are playing and the match ups. We haven’t done any of that yet. Jackson Nelson has been right up there in selection conversations and Frankie Watson is another one who played pretty well in (East Perth’s) final last week against Claremont. There’s some scope there to talk about, but we’ll have that next week.”

Simpson said he would have no reservations about picking Watson to debut in a final.

The Category B Rookie stood tall against the Tigers at Claremont Oval a fortnight ago, amassing 20 possessions (13 contested), eight spoils, six hard ball gets, five rebound 50s and two marks.

“If his form warrants selection (then we’ll pick him),” Simpson said.

“Where we’re at, we’ve managed to debut eight players this year. It would be a pretty big game to come into, but that’s probably not in my mind.

“It’s more what do we need? Can he fill that role? I’m not thinking too much about (debuting him in a final).”