The West

Masten lauds Eagles midfield
Masten lauds Eagles midfield

Chris Masten rates West Coast's current midfield group as the best he has played with in his seven years at the club.

The 2007 No.3 draft pick was surrounded by premiership players Daniel Kerr, Andrew Embley, Michael Braun and Chad Fletcher in his first season at the Eagles.

Now on the verge of bringing up his 100-game milestone, Masten says the company of 2014 is the strongest he has seen since making his debut in round one, 2008.

The Eagles finally have the fit and firing combination of Luke Shuey and Sharrod Wellingham at their disposal, with a strong support cast that includes club champions Matt Priddis and Scott Selwood, Matt Rosa, Andrew Gaff and Masten himself.

"We're getting good numbers through there," he said. "The boys are playing their roles really well and chopping and changing between those positions on the ground.

"I think we're getting a bit more influence on the game than we probably have in the past and hitting the scoreboard a little bit as well. It's been good.

"If you have your A-graders out there, the (opposition) team's got to really worry about that. They make such a massive difference on game day.

"If you see Shuey on the weekend, he was in everything. He's so important for us and having our best players on the park."

Masten said fielding three ruckmen was also helping West Coast's midfield potency, particularly around the stoppages.

The Eagles have played trio Dean Cox, Nic Naitanui and Callum Sinclair in their first two matches and have subsequently amassed 99 hit-outs - more than any other side, save for Fremantle (115) and Greater Western Sydney (114).

"They provide a good contest and make it a lot easier for us around the ground, which is good," Masten said.

Masten has made hitting the scoreboard a bigger focus in 2014 and already has three goals to his name.

The gain comes on the back of a 2013 season where Masten, one of the club's most improved players, averaged a career-high 26 disposals across 19 matches.

The midfielder has attracted critics, having once been expected to develop into a replacement for Brownlow medallists Chris Judd and Ben Cousins.

He said in the countdown to his 100th match against St Kilda at Patersons Stadium on Saturday that it was very rare now to hear Eagles fans booing him from the sidelines.

However, Masten said there was still plenty of room left for improvement in his game.

"I'm finally getting a little bit of reward - I hope anyway," he said. "I'm really happy to be here and really grateful that the club stood by me.

"I've never felt really super comfortable and I don't think I ever want to because I'd probably let myself slip a little bit."

"I think we're getting a bit more influence on the game than we probably have in the past …"" *Chris Masten *

The West Australian

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