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Round one the focus for Eagles
Round one the focus for Eagles

New West Coast coach Adam Simpson admits his first game as a head coach could get a tad messy, and says up to eight spots will be up for grabs during the AFL pre-season.

Simpson will get his first real taste of life as a senior coach during Tuesday’s pre-season clash with Fremantle at Arena Joondalup.

Both sides have selected strong squads for the match, with only Nic Naitanui (groin), Beau Waters (shoulder) and Andrew Gaff (tooth) missing from West Coast’s best outfit.

Simpson, who took over as Eagles coach from John Worsfold at the end of last year, said the club’s three pre-season games would be vital in helping the squad get used to a new style of play.

“I’d like 10 games before round one to be honest. It could get messy on the weekend,” Simpson said on Monday.

“Our coaching group haven’t coached a game together. We’ve got a new style of play.

“There is so much change and the biggest message for our players at the moment is just embrace the change.

“No doubt they’ll revert to habits that somewhat don’t suit what we’re doing now.

“But we’ve made the instructions pretty simple.

“Hopefully we’ve got them to a level where they’re pretty clear in what they need to do.”

Veterans Dean Cox and Darren Glass have both been named for the Arena Joondalup fixture. Star forwards Mark LeCras, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling will also receive their first full competitive hit-out of the pre-season.

The Dockers have similarly pulled no punches, naming 17 of the 22 players who were involved in last year’s grand final against Hawthorn.

Tendai Mzungu has recovered from a thigh strain and been added to an extensive list of Fremantle regulars named that includes Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands.

Simpson said West Coast’s strong squad was more about finely tuning the team for round one rather than about taking the pre-season clash seriously because of the opposition.

“Both teams have got to travel interstate next week, so I would have thought it’s a bit about next week as well and preparations,” he said.

“We’re in a similar boat. We go to Blacktown next week. Our team is not based on who we’re playing. It’s probably the games we’re playing.

“It’s not about picking the best team to win this week for us. We’re in a bit of a different phase with our progression. We need to play games together and take every opportunity that we can.

“We’re also aware of getting the right minutes into the players and trying to get these rotations right – the progression for round one. At the moment we think playing a strong team, or a more senior team, is the best suit for us for round one.”

Arena Joondalup hosted the final Big Day Out concert earlier this month.

Simpson said Eagles staff had inspected the ground and he had no worries about the condition of the venue.