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Sheppard s stellar start for Eagles
Sheppard's stellar start for Eagles

West Coast coach Adam Simpson has warned of intense competition for spots in his senior side in 2014 as the Eagles yesterday ramped up their season preparations with an intraclub match behind closed doors at Patersons Stadium.

Simpson last week revealed his hopes for Simon Tunbridge to push for a senior spot during the club's NAB Challenge campaign.

But he also gave thewest.com.au an insight into what he expected from other fringe players such as Brad Sheppard and Jamie Bennell in what he predicted would be a highly-competitive rush for spots.

"I expect them to step up … bloody oath, they need to," Simpson said of Tunbridge, Sheppard and Bennell.

"They'll get given opportunity over the NAB Challenge to prove themselves and if they're good enough they'll play.

"I reckon there are about 10 guys who can fit into four or five spots, so it's going to come down to who is performing better."

Thewest.com.au understands Sheppard, the No.7 pick in the 2009 national draft, was one who impressed during yesterday's match simulation session, which was bolstered by players such as Brendan Lee and Nathan Blee from the club's WAFL affiliate East Perth.

Recruits Xavier Ellis (from Hawthorn) and Elliot Yeo (Brisbane) also caught the eye.

Sheppard, Ellis and Yeo all spent time in defence and the midfield under Simpson's creed of breeding stronger versatility through his team.

The rookie coach said he expected Yeo and Ellis to push strongly for selection, with round one against the Western Bulldogs at Patersons Stadium on March 23 fast approaching.

"Elliot Yeo, hopefully he's a good acquisition for us and we're going to give him every opportunity," Simpson said.

"He's just got good presence with the ball in his hands. He can run and carry and take the game on. He's still young with a good physique and good size and he looks like he can play in more than one position.

"And Xavier Ellis is a quality player who has shown nothing but that in pre-season and I think there's a bit more there. If we can get him right, now he's got through all the pre-season, hopefully when we elevate we can see a bit from him."

Forwards Mark LeCras, Josh Kennedy and Brant Colledge and big men Eric Mackenzie and Scott Lycett are others who performed well yesterday.

Simpson also revealed how a training drill had helped high draft pick Dom Sheed press for a spot in the new-look Eagles team.

"The way to tell a good player in Dom's position is when there is a one-ball drill," Simpson said. "So when there's one ball and there's 40 people and he gets it five or six times in eight minutes you think, 'Wow'. That's exciting and you can see why we drafted him."