West Coast are confident their decision to buck the AFL trend of selecting only one ruckman will pay dividends after naming Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett for Sunday’s clash against Sydney at Optus Stadium.
Naitanui will make his long-awaited return from a knee reconstruction after not playing an AFL game since August 2016. He was selected as the starting ruckman with Lycett in the forward pocket.
Clubs have been reticent to select two ruckmen after Richmond stormed to the premiership with a smaller team. Sydney chose Callum Sinclair as their ruckman and he will be relieved by smaller players after they overlooked Darcy Cameron to make his debut.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson said the Eagles could get an edge by having Naitanui and Lycett in the same team.
“Every club is different. Obviously with Nic coming back, we’re going to have to manage his time,” Simpson said.
“He won’t be able to play ruck the whole game and we think Scott and Nathan Vardy and Fraser McInnes all have good presence when they go forward. So, that’s what we’re doing.
“We like to think our rucks can play forward. I don’t think anyone will play two genuine rucks any more. You’ve got to have some impact when you go forward of the play.
“Like every club that does that, if we have a resting ruckman forward, he is now a forward. He’s got to have a really good focus on pressure and obviously scoreboard impact as well.”
Forward Jake Waterman will make his debut after being named in the starting 18. The son of premiership player Chris Waterman could be joined by first-gamers Liam Ryan, Daniel Venables, Francis Watson and Brayden Ainsworth after they were named on the extended interchange bench.
The Eagles have had only four debutants in the past two seasons, but Simpson said there would be at least three youngsters playing their first games on Sunday.
They trained at the ground yesterday and Simpson said the excitement was obvious.
“It feels like a final,” Simpson said. “For us to make it feel like home, that is our next objective. That’s where we need the crowd. If we have an extra 20,000 supporters this week, I think it’ll feel like home when we run out.”