Eagles now geared for season opener
Eagle Will Schofield gets hold of Buddy Franklin. PIc: Getty Images

West Coast coach Adam Simpson declared last night he would select his strongest available team to play Fremantle after a young Eagles line-up domin- ated Sydney in their NAB Challenge match at Blacktown International Sportspark.

The game was expected to be Sydney recruit Lance Franklin's welcoming party, but he was starved of opportunities and finished with just six possessions and no goals as the Eagles won 10.12 (72) to 5.7 (37).

Rookie-listed ruckman Callum Sinclair was best on ground in the absence of Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. Chris Masten and Scott Selwood were terrific in the midfield, while a host of youngsters, including Fraser McInnes and Brant Colledge, showed enormous promise.

West Coast joined Hawthorn and Adelaide as the only sides to have won both of their NAB Challenge games as they prepare for their first season since Simpson replaced club legend John Worsfold as coach.

Simpson said next Thursday's match against Fremantle would be a full dress rehearsal for the round-one clash with the Western Bulldogs and that almost certainly meant Naitanui would play his first game for 2014.

"As long as he gets through training throughout the week, we expect him to play some minutes," Simpson said. "We might play a few more (youngsters), but we'll look at playing a stronger side and part of the reason why we didn't take the boys over here on this trip was so we can play a stronger team next week."

The Eagles left a host of big names in Perth. Cox, Naitanui, Darren Glass, Mark LeCras, Matt Priddis, Eric Mackenzie, Josh Kennedy and Beau Waters were missing. Luke Shuey was in the squad but didn't play.

Sydney were also missing several of their best players.

Simpson was thrilled that the team had performed so well against Fremantle and Sydney in successive weeks.

But with the players still adjusting to his game plan and with round one a fortnight away, West Coast are likely to play another intraclub match to be ready for the Bulldogs on March 23.

The Eagles kicked six goals while holding Sydney scoreless during the third term in a dominant display.

"To break it open in the third quarter was pleasing, but it was the first half that I was impressed with," Simpson said.

"Just our ability to hunt the footy and our intent and work rate and all those things you want to get out of a game."

Sydney coach John Longmire lamented his team's inability to get the ball inside 50 and give Franklin opportunities.

"As long as he gets through training throughout the week, we expect him to play some minutes."" *Adam Simpson *on Nic Naitanui playing against Fremantle

The West Australian

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