West Coast senior coach Adam Simpson is backing star recruit Tim Kelly to shine in his first outing against former club Geelong.
The Eagles executed the deal of last year’s AFL Trade Period by luring Kelly, who finished fifth in the 2019 Brownlow Medal race, from the Cattery to the west.
Simpson said he expected Kelly to approach the contest like any other and play his role on game day.
“He’s a pro, albeit it’s only his third season,” Simpson offered.
“He prepares the same every week. The output we’ve got from him is pretty good this season
“We’re not putting too much pressure on him. We’ll let him play his role and then we can complement him with the rest of our midfielders. It’s a different type of game when you play your old side, but it’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last.”
Kelly might have taken some time to find his feet in West Coast’s midfield, but the two-time Geelong best and fairest runner-up has certainly shown his class in recent weeks.
And he had arguably his best outing in blue and gold last Sunday, amassing 29 disposals, six clearances and six inside 50s to help the Eagles topple arch rivals Collingwood by 66 points at Optus Stadium.
“I think he has improved with the side. He’s probably a reflection of what’s happened the past three or four weeks,” Simpson said.
“Playing with a brand new side, having the interruption of the quarantine and the COVID-19 situation wouldn’t have helped that situation and then we were on the ropes there for a few weeks in terms of our connection.”
While Kelly’s clash with his former teammates will undoubtedly be the headline act on Saturday night, Eagles fans will be intrigued to see how 19-year-old defender Harry Edwards handles his AFL debut against one of the leage’s powerhouse clubs.
Edwards, recruited to the Eagles with pick No.18 in the 2018 Rookie Draft, has been brought in to add some more height to the Eagles’ backline given the absence of four-time all-Australian Jeremy McGovern, who will miss another game due to a fractured thumb.
“The thumb's just giving (McGovern) a bit of grief at the moment,” Simpson said.
“It hasn't got worse, it's got better, but just not to the point where he can play. We tested it out today and we’ll err on the side of caution with that one.”
Simpson also revealed that the Eagles will be without midfielder Jack Redden, who strained his quad during the win over Collingwood.
The senior coach said the club was ready to test itself against the class of Geelong, who he considered one of the strongest outfits in the competition.
Simpson said the club’s stunning victory over the Magpies was a distant memory and acknowledged that it would mean little if they fell short against the Cats.
“It was a good performance (against Collingwood), but we’re not just satisfied with living off that. We need to back it up,” he said.
“Geelong, they’re above us on the ladder and they’re the form team really when you look at it. Their numbers stack right up across the board. We’re had a good week and they’ve had a good season.
“The way they play, it’s a really tough, hard brand. The contest is critical and I know they really pride themselves on that, so we need to match them in that area.
“It’s something that we’re working on, our ability to compete against teams like Geelong. It’s a challenge. We think we’re up for it and we know what’s in front of us, now it’s about two good teams going up against each other.”