Champion forward Josh Kennedy and another premiership star, midfielder Mark Hutchings, have been included in the West Coast Eagles’ team for Saturday’s pivotal match against St Kilda at Optus Stadium.
Kennedy has been elevated after missing last week’s clash with Adelaide at Adelaide Oval due to a calf injury while fan favourite Hutchings comes in for his first game of the season.
The return of those seasoned players will help offset to some extent the absence of skipper Luke Shuey, who strained a calf in the Crows victory and was subbed out of the match in the dying minutes.
For Kennedy, it will be satisfying to be back for the 150th game of star defender Jeremy McGovern, having missed the 200-game milestone of close mate Nic Naitanui. In the absence of Shuey, vice-captain McGovern will lead the team on his big day.
The inclusion of Kennedy and Hutchings is only part of the story, with young midfielder Xavier O’Neill and utility player Jake Waterman also being promoted. Both have a strong block of form behind them in the WAFL, with Waterman best afield against Subiaco last week, finishing off his work with four goals.
For every positive there is, however, a negative and that is the injury-enforced absence of developing players Jack Petruccelle and Luke Edwards, both of whom could not be considered because of hamstring strains.
Forward-ruckman Bailey Williams has also been left out because of Kennedy’s return while Jackson Nelson has also been omitted, having played only a handful of minutes as the medical replacement for Shuey last week.
Doubtless, he has been pencilled in for an extended run with the WAFL Eagles against East Perth.
This week’s medical substitute will come from one of versatile midfielder Jarrod Brander, defenders Alex Witherden or Luke Foley, or big man Williams.