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West Coast Eagles

Team-first footy fuels West Coast's forwards

All the Goals: JLT 1 Check out all of our goals when we took on the Cats in JLT 1 at Leederville Oval

West Coast's forwards' team-first attitude against Geelong is a reason why Jack Darling is confident the Eagles can kick a winning score in round one, even if spearhead Josh Kennedy and Jamie Cripps are missing.

After a brilliant 2018 campaign, Darling looked in ominous touch with a five-goal haul and applied fierce pressure in the reigning premiers' 34-point JLT Community Series victory over the Cats.

But the Eagles star was ably supported by second-year tall Oscar Allen (three goals), while smalls Liam Ryan (two), Willie Rioli, Jack Petruccelle and draftee Jarrod Cameron combined for five majors.

Hybrid forward Jake Waterman didn't hit the scoreboard but was also busy with 14 touches, while developing tall Jarrod Brander (12) is in the mix for round one against Brisbane.

West Coast was unbeaten in 13 games with Darling and Kennedy in the side last season, and is likely to have both twin towers available at the Gabba, despite Kennedy battling foot soreness.

But if the dual Coleman medallist isn't ready, Darling will lead the attack and take plenty of faith in the youth around him into the season-opener.

"They've got a lot of excitement. We're a pretty tight group as well, so there's good unity," Darling told

"You could see the guys sharing the goals. Liam Ryan centred one to 'Camo', he wanted to get him into the game and stuff like that.

"Obviously can't wait for JK and 'Crippa' to be back in the team, but it's just exciting.

"I thought Oscar played well and gave a good contest. When we gave a contest at ground level we looked pretty dangerous.

"It's good to have all those guys at our feet who are so quick. They can break lines, they can do amazing skillful things and their defensive pressure was amazing."

Darling was arguably the League's most dominant key forward early last year.

The 26-year-old showed vice-like hands and kicked 28 majors in the opening 10 games before a nasty ankle injury put the brakes on his career-best form.

But after an uninterrupted summer, Darling looked imposing against the Cats.

He grabbed 10 marks – three contested – all while shaking off some pre-season rust.

"There was a few cobwebs, actually, I dropped a few marks but in the end I got a few (goals) in the goalsquare, so that was nice," Darling said.

"Last year what kept me in good stead was just focusing on my focus points. It was two or three things, and if I bring that I'm going to have a good game.

"I might not kick lots of goals but I'll make a great contest, win or halve it, and bring others into the game.

"It's not all about kicking goals and the club, internally, and I know that."

Off the field, Darling credits a settled home life with wife Courtney and sons Max (nearly two) and six-week-old Leo for the growing maturity and balance which has benefited his football.

"It's awesome, we're very happy. You've just got to have a bit more teamwork (with a new addition), it takes a bit longer to get two in a pram," Darling said.

"The oldest one, Max, just needs to get out of the house a couple of times a day, so he's pretty full-on, which is great. I love it.

"I love his energy and how happy he is, and it's cool to watch him develop."