New Eagle has X-Factor
New Eagle has X-Factor

Rookie West Coast coach Adam Simpson isn’t getting carried away despite his side’s 84-point demolition of Fremantle in its NAB Challenge clash at Arena Joondalup yesterday in a promising start to its 2014 campaign.

Free agent Xavier Ellis starred on debut as the Eagles piled on eight majors, including two super goals, in a first quarter blitz that blew away the sluggish Dockers in Simpson’s first game in charge.

Sharrod Wellingham, Chris Masten and Jamie Cripps all booted three goals and Jack Darling shone in a versatile role switching between the centre square and attack in the drubbing, 2.20.10 (148) to 0.10.4 (64).

A head-high bump dished out by Patrick McGinnity in the final quarter that left Docker Danyle Pearce concussed will almost certainly attract scrutiny from the AFL match review panel in the only hiccup for West Coast.

Forward Hayden Ballantyne left the ground on crutches with a leg injury in what could be an added blow after a dirty day for Fremantle.

Simpson was pleased with his team’s work rate and willingness to hunt the football, particularly early in the match.

“We needed to play a stronger team because I need to get the boys playing together,” he said.

“I was really pleased with our intent today.

“That was the main thing … (but) once again it’s NAB Challenge and two teams in two different phases of training. I’m not getting carried away.”

Ellis, who moved to West Coast during last year’s trade period, started the match off half-back and had a game-high 17 disposals in the first half.

He was substituted out of the game in the third term.

Simpson was happy with the performance from Ellis.

“I’m not quite sure if he’ll be allowed the space he had today if it was a round-one game, but it’s good for his confidence,” Simpson said.

There were a host of positives for a club looking to rebound from a horror 2013 season.

Mark LeCras reminded fans of his class after two injury-interrupted seasons, booting 2.2.

Cripps and Wellingham added to the firepower across half-forward, while first-round draft pick Dom Sheed worked his way into the match after half-time.

In contrast, Fremantle looked anything but sharp coming off a shorter pre-season following last year’s grand final loss.

Assistant coach Peter Sumich said the club needed to move on quickly.

“I wouldn’t say we’re a month behind, but we need to get going a little bit now,” he said.

High-profile recruits Colin Sylvia and Scott Gumbleton struggled to have an impact.

Sumich hoped the pair would press for a round-one berth against Collingwood over the remaining pre-season matches.
“It was a tough day for everyone,” Sumich said.

Midfielders Lachie Neale and Tom Sheridan were rare shining lights for Fremantle, winning plenty of the ball.

The West Australian

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