West Coast recruit Jamie Cripps knows that if he wants to play elite-level football this year he will have to break into one of the most potent midfield groups in the AFL.
The former St Kilda player will run out in an Eagles jumper for the first time on Saturday night in the NAB Cup opener against Fremantle and Geelong at Patersons Stadium after asking to be traded to West Coast at the end of last year to be closer to his family.
He is set to be named along with fellow recruits Sharrod Wellingham and Cale Morton when the squads are released this afternoon.
Despite playing most of his senior football in the forward line, Cripps has trained exclusively with the midfield group over summer and is excited at the prospect of testing himself against teammates like Luke Shuey and Scott Selwood.
"Everyone's a freak athlete, it just blew my mind how fit they are over here. I struggled to keep up the first couple of runs," he said.
"I haven't had much to do with the midfield over the last couple of years so I can't wait.
"Scotty Burns is my midfield coach and he's just taught me so much already that I didn't know."
The significance of playing on a wing for the Eagles is not lost on Cripps, given there is one at Patersons Stadium named after his cousin, the late Chris Mainwaring.
However, he said the club had given him no assurances for the 2013 season.
"They said if you work hard and do everything right there's a chance you can get in the team," he said. "Hopefully I get the chance to play in the NAB Cup and prove myself then hopefully keep playing through the NAB Cup and get to round one."
Eagles general manager of football operations Neale Daniher is confident Cripps has a place in the club's best side.
"We haven't brought (him) in to be a depth player," Daniher said.
"He's a young player, we realised when we took him on that he's got a lot of growth and we think he can get better - he'll develop.
"We haven't put any limits on him and he hasn't put any limits on himself. He can play in the midfield, he can play on a wing, he can play forward and maybe a touch back."
St Kilda chose Cripps with pick 24 in the 2010 national draft after he came under notice at East Fremantle. He managed 16 games in two injury-ravaged years at the Saints.
As well as a number of soft-tissue injuries, the 20-year-old also had to deal with being diagnosed with type one diabetes shortly after being drafted.
Cripps was happy with his progress this pre-season and was hoping for an injury-free year.
"I do think I'm probably fitter than what I was at St Kilda. I had a lot of injuries and a few little setbacks when I was at the Saints, so I wasn't really 100 per cent for very long," he said.
"I've been pretty lucky after Christmas that I've been able to do most of the training.""Everyone's a freak athlete, it just blew my mind how fit they are over here." " Recruit * Jamie Cripps *
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