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Eagles are handball happy: Worsfold
Eagles are handball happy: Worsfold

West Coast coach John Worsfold says his team's handball skills have risen to a new level this year.

The Eagles were accused of repeatedly throwing the ball against Collingwood last Saturday.

They have been placed under intense scrutiny after receiving the most free kicks in the league and now former Western Bulldogs ruckman Luke Darcy has switched the focus to another part of their game.

AFL umpires manager Jeff Gieschen said only three throws were missed by the whistle blowers in last Saturday's clash and several of the examples singled out by Darcy had been legal handpasses.

Worsfold said the Eagles had worked hard to improve their skills. The team was ranked 15th for handball efficiency in 2010, rose to 14th last year and shot up to fifth this season.

The coach doesn't believe his players throw the ball.

"We were a poor handballing efficiency team last year. We're a lot better this year," Worsfold said.

"We've certainly jumped up, which means we practise our handball. We're a better handballing team than ever."

Worsfold said changes to the holding-the-ball rule in recent years meant critics were confused about what was legal in the modern game. He said players who were tackled as soon as they took possession weren't required to successfully handpass the ball all the time.

"They are told to knock it out and they are also told that if they haven't had prior opportunity to get rid of the ball, they have to make an attempt and they won't be pinged for dropping the ball," Worsfold said.

"If it's an illegal disposal but they've had no prior opportunity, that's fine. Even if you try to kick the ball away, if you miss your foot and haven't had prior opportunity, that's play on. There's a lot of grey areas."

Despite the criticism, Worsfold said he didn't believe people had an agenda against the Eagles.

West Coast will confront winless Gold Coast at Patersons Stadium on Saturday with defender Adam Selwood likely to be available after an arm infection sidelined him last week.

Will Schofield appears set to miss another week with a hamstring injury, leaving Swan Districts teenager Murray Newman strongly in contention to make his debut.

Newman, 18, was pick 23 in the national draft. He has averaged 17 possessions and two goals in his last four games as a half-forward.

"His form stacks up over the last month," Worsfold said. "It's been very solid. It's as good as anyone in the WAFL."