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West Coast Eagles

JLT2: Pressing questions

Simpson post-match v Dockers The senior coach speaks to the media following the side's JLT victory over Fremantle

Simmo, what was your assessment of that game?

It was an interesting game with the wind playing its part, although I thought Freo were a lot tougher than us. The contested numbers didn’t look like that in the first quarter, but I thought we invited a bit of pressure with a bit of handball. We got hurt on the scoreboard but we kicked a late goal in the first quarter, which settled things a little bit. It was a pretty tough contest until half-time. I thought our senior players in the second half elevated. It’s quite young, Fremantle’s midfield, and we’ve got quite a young forward line, so there’s different areas where we are looking for that improvement. I thought our second half, in particular our of the middle at the start of the third quarter, probably got us going.

It was a fair midfield domination, numbers you don’t normally see?

We’ve just got to put it into context. Freo had a couple of injuries throughout the day, a couple of key personnel not playing. But for us, just looking at what we did and how we went about it, I thought we walked away pretty pleased.

Brad Sheppard seemed to have an issue early on with that tackle that sort of went high but then he seemed to have a knee problem as well?

I think he got a corkie and a bit of whiplash. The neck is okay. The corkie started to bleed straight away. We tried to bring him back on but we took the safe route. I don’t know if he’s available for roune one. It’s a corkie at the moment. We think he will recover.

Fans reading into this pre-season game, it looks like a comprehensive win. Should they get excited?

We’re excited about the season. There’s a little bit of nerves to see where we are at. This time last year we got beaten by 10 goals, so I don’t think it means anything drastic for the season ahead. But we’re in a good space in terms of our effort. We confronted, in particular in the first half, a team that put a lot of pressure on and I don’t think we handled it too well. To our players’ credit we worked our way into the game, but round one against Brisbane, we can’t wait for that. We’ve got to start well. We’ll take a lot out of the last two games but there’s still a lot of work to do. Players are still trying to get to the line for round one; that’s the next phase. Hopefully we haven’t got too many injuries out of today. We’re focusing on ourselves.

How settled do you feel on your forward line if JK and Cripps aren’t there in round one. Do you feel like you’ve got your bases covered?

Willie Rioli’s third quarter, when he just had one out of the box, that was great to see. We are relying a lot on our second-year players. We’ve got a really young forward line, almost as young as Freo’s midfield. We’ve got Pretuccelle, Brander, Waterman, Rioli, Ryan and Oscar Allen, who’s 19. The consistency is going to be tough when you’re that age, but I thought today they all put their hand up at some stage. Brander had to play back for most the game which, once again, is good for us with flexibility. He played on the wing as well in the last quarter. It’s good to have some talent coming through. You’ve just got to give them some games.

Dom Sheed’s pre-season. He seems to have the ball on a string at the moment?

He had a high possession rate today again. He’s in good touch. He’s worked really hard in the off-season and he’s been really humble since the grand final. For a guy to go through what he’s gone through, no one can really put themselves in that situation. How he’s handled it has been really, really pleasing for us. He’s working really hard defensively and he’s getting rewarded with the ball. But what we are seeing off the ball is probably something that has been lacking in his game in previous pre-seasons. He’s committed to that and he’s getting rewarded with the ball, but I’m not expecting 40 touches ever week.

Do you feel ready (for round one)?

It feels like we’re in a pretty good space. We haven’t changed a lot about our system and the way we play. I think we had 18 or 17 players that played in that grand final last year who played today and we feel like our kids are evolving, but does that mean we’re ready? I can’t answer that question. I’ll tell you in two and a half weeks.