West Coast travel to the Riverina area in regional NSW to tackle one of the premiership favourites for 2017 in GWS. West Coast have taken a youthful squad for their opening game, but here are five Eagles to keep an eye in the Eagles first pre-season game of the year.
The enigmatic young forward made his debut in the opening game of 2015 but has not made an appearance in the senior side since. Injuries and inconsistency has seen Lamb struggle to break into a side that has had the luxury of Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling as pillars of the forward line. Suggestions that Lamb wanted to return to his home state in Victoria during the off-season failed to materialise into a trade, with Lamb ultimately accepting a new contract at West Coast. Lamb did show signs of what he could be capable of through the second half of 2016 with some dominant performances at East Perth and has a prime opportunity to push his case to the selectors with both Kennedy and Darling rested for the opening JLT game.
Vardy joined the Eagles following seven injury-riddled years at Geelong, but after a clean pre-season has the first chance to cement himself as the number one choice ruckman for the Eagles opening game. Nic Naitanui will miss the year, Scott Lycett is facing his own race to be available for Round 1, and Jon Giles is being managed due to a thumb complaint. Drew Petrie has been rested from the lengthy trip, leaving Vardy to lead the ruck against the Giants with rookie-listed Fraser McInnes as support. Some strong performances in the JLT series will guarantee a debut game for West Coast against the Kangaroos.
The Eagles first selection from the 2015 National Draft is yet to play a game, but could push for a senior debut in season 2017. Partington has enjoyed a drama-free pre-season after an indifferent 2016. Partington was unable to find consistent form in his first year at East Perth, with a mysterious ailment sidelining the midfielder through the middle part of the season. At 181cm and 79kg, Partington has the physical attributes as an inside midfielder and is noted as a player who can find the ball at the stoppages and find space on the outside. The Eagles have shown faith in Partington having already extended his contract until the end of 2018.
West Coast used their second pick of last year’s National Draft to select local product Joshua Rotham. Rotham – a mid-sized defender from West Perth – who showed his ability to read the ball and take intercept marks and provide plenty of run from half-back in the AFL Combine’s All-Stars game ahead of the draft. Rotham has reportedly impressed on the track displaying a calm nature with ball in hand, and at 192cm and 78kg would not be out of place on an AFL field. As Sam Butler gears up for what is likely to be his final season, Rotham will have the chance to stake his claim as a future successor.
Waterman, the second father-son selection from two-time premiership champion Chris Waterman, will be hoping to get a better run than older brother Alec. Alec was delisted at the close of 2016 after an 18 month battle with Glandular Fever, but Jake gets an opportunity to forge his own career, starting with the opening JLT game. Waterman has shown leadership potential through his junior football career, having been selected as captain of the WA State Under 18’s in the National Carnival last year, and then the O’Loughlin team in the AFL Combine All-Stars game. Waterman can play as a leading half-forward and is noted for having strong hands. A five-goal performance in the Colts Grand Final for Claremont sealed his selection as the final player picked at the 2016 National Draft.