West Coast forward Josh Hill is still in the Eagles' best 22 despite the looming return of All-Australian Mark LeCras, according to assistant coach Justin Longmuir.
Hill, 24, kicked 36 goals last season after injuries to LeCras, Josh Kennedy and Mark Nicoski left the Eagles struggling for options in the forward line.
But despite career-best figures, the former Western Bulldog came under fire when the club faltered towards the back end of the season and was still considered by many to be a temporary solution.
In Northam for the club's annual community camp yesterday, Longmuir said Hill had become an important part of the Eagles' structure and backed him to hold his spot despite the return of the club's forward-line stars.
"I think Josh Hill is in our best 22 anyway, it's just a matter of fitting them all in," Longmuir said.
"Hopefully with Josh's better physical conditioning he can play on the wing at times and even half-back if we need.
"His fitness has come a long way this pre-season and that gives him more flexibility, which is a bonus."
The Eagles kick off their NAB Cup campaign tomorrow week against Fremantle and Geelong at Patersons Stadium.
With a near full-strength side to choose from, Longmuir said the club would be fielding the strongest line-up possible in an effort to settle the squad ahead of the season proper.
"We'd love to give everyone a go but given the new format and given that we won't get four games unless we make the grand final, we'll probably be playing our best team from the start," he said.
"It's been a really exciting pre-season, it's been difficult, but enjoyable to juggle so many good players."
Eagles captain Darren Glass said winning the pre-season competition was not a focus for the group, but players were sure to take an aggressive approach in the hope of earning a spot in the round-one side.
"We've got some players that are forcing their way, I think it's going to be really competitive," he said.
"The first NAB Cup (round) will give an opportunity to see a lot of different players, so I expect it to be pretty competitive."His fitness has come a long way this pre-season and that gives him more flexibility ... "Justin Longmuir
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