Gaff adds strings to his bow
Gaff adds strings to his bow

Andrew Gaff says the constant rotation of West Coast's midfielders through different positions this season should help him shed heavy tags and return to his freewheeling best.

One of the club's premier users of the football had his influence strangled last year when opposition teams targeted him in the absence of injured duo Luke Shuey and Sharrod Wellingham.

Gaff, 21, averaged less than 20 disposals a game in 2013 due to the close attention.

It was a significant decline from an average 25 touches in 24 games during 2012 when he finished fifth in the club's best and fairest.

Gaff said he was bitterly disappointed by his third season and was desperate to make amends.

"I've learnt my work rate has got to be as high as it can be, especially on those days where people are manning you up," he said.

"You've just got to work hard and if it doesn't happen in the first three quarters, you try and make sure it happens in the last quarter and you can make a difference when the game's on the line because you've outworked them.

"Clubs have also got to decide what happens when we've got a lot of guys rotating between the numerous roles. With Adam Simpson, he's asked for versatility and it gives me and all the other midfielders at the club a good chance of losing opponents."

Gaff will switch between the wing, centre square and half-forward.

He said the midfielders had spoken about needing to kick more goals in 2014 to support Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Mark LeCras. Bradd Dalziell was the only Eagles on-baller to kick more than 10 goals last season and he was de-listed.

Gaff booted 5.9 for the year.

"We've spoken more about having goal-kicking mid- fielders," he said.

"I know I barely kicked any last year. I was pretty disappointed with how I went.

"I have high expectations of myself and I didn't feel that I played up to my peak standard. But it was a great learning year.

"Hopefully I'll look back on it in a couple of years and it's been the best thing for my football. I definitely felt I got better at a few particular areas - tackle numbers and defensive running."

Boosting Gaff's confidence is the fact he enters the year off a near blemish-free pre-season. The only hiccup came last month when he required dental surgery after the spot where his wisdom teeth were removed last September became infected.

He is every chance of starting with a bang in the club's season opener against the Western Bulldogs at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.

Gaff averages almost 26 disposals a game against the Bulldogs - more than he does against any other side.

The Eagles have an ideal chance to start the season strongly, with the Bulldogs fixture followed by winnable games against Melbourne and St Kilda.

"The Bulldogs have got a lot of young guys that are playing with a bit of enthusiasm," Gaff said.

"They've recruited Stewart Crameri up forward, who's a big target for them.

"We'll definitely have to play well to beat them. They'll go a lot better than people think."

The West Australian

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