Keunen to ruck for Black Swans
Keunen to ruck for Black Swans

West Perth premiership ruckman Chris Keunen is set to make his State debut next week after Paul Johnson withdrew from the squad to take on the North East Australian Football league.

The East Perth big man trained with the WA squad on Monday but later told coach Bill Monaghan that personal reasons would prevent him travelling to Sydney next week for the game at Spotless Stadium.

"Paul wanted to tell me face to face rather than over the phone and I appreciate his honesty," Monaghan said. "Subject to fitness, it's likely Chris will now be the main ruckman.

"I think just about everyone involved in the WAFL recognise that they are the best two going around."

Johnson, who won the Simpson Medal in WA's narrow loss to South Australia in Adelaide in 2012, was the only Royal in the original squad.

But his East Perth teammate Brendan Lee was added to the squad on Monday following his second outstanding comeback performance after recovering from a broken finger.

Lee had 31 disposals in the big win over Claremont and his on-field battle with Luke Blackwell may be replicated at the selection table next week when they vie for the main inside midfield position.

Monaghan said any player to produce a standout performance this Saturday would be considered for inclusion but it was more likely that the final team of 23 would come from the current combination.

Swan Districts defender Kirk Ugle is unlikely to be considered with the State selectors understood to be surprised that coach Greg Harding used the media so strongly this week to push for the left-footer's inclusion.

"We have plenty of options for most positions with Wayde Twomey and Ashton Hams good candidates as rebounding defenders and Andrew Stephen and Laine Rasmussen able to play lock-down roles," Monaghan said.

WA's greatest quandary is over the make-up of their forward line with regular selection Josh Smith unlikely to be available for East Perth until after the State match and Tim Geappen making a slow start to the season.

The selectors are set to rotate versatile trio Ben Saunders, Paul Bevan and Ryan Davis through the forward line while Tony Notte and Lachlan Delahunty are likely to mix roles in attack and on the ball.

Exciting youngsters Shane Nelson, Blaine Boekhorst, George Hampson and Chris Deluca are all poised to make their State debuts.

·West Perth wingman Ray Bartholomew is likely to miss at least three matches after surgery this week to repair multiple facial fractures suffered against Peel on Sunday.

Bartholomew received a broken cheekbone and several fractures to an eye socket after being bumped by a Peel opponent early in the match at Arena Joondalup.

He played out the game but is not likely to be available until the round-12 fixture against East Fremantle.

The West Australian

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