The West

Cox the best player I coached: Worsfold
Eagles veteran Dean Cox and former coach John Worsfold belt out the team song after a victory over Port Adelaide in 2011. Pic: Getty Images

West Coast legend John Worsfold has separated decorated ruckman Dean Cox from a group of star Eagles as the best player he coached during his 12-year reign at the helm.

Worsfold said Cox, who will equal club great Glen Jakovich's games-played record of 276 against St Kilda at Patersons Stadium today, stood above a revered group of 2006 premiership heroes, including former captains Chris Judd and Ben Cousins, current skipper Darren Glass and midfielder Daniel Kerr.

"Because players play such different roles in clubs, it's hard to say who is better," Worsfold said.

"But if I had to pick one, I'd lean towards Coxy. I'd lean towards the influence he's had on games over such a long period of time, not just because he's taller than everyone else and he taps the ball well, but he kicks the ball as well as most midfielders and he gets possessions up there with the mid-tier midfielders in the game.

"So he plays that dual role and has been outstanding."

Cox joined West Coast as a rookie in 2000 and made his senior debut the following year. He played second fiddle in the ruck to Michael Gardiner until 2004 when he was thrust suddenly into the limelight after his star teammate sustained a posterior cruciate ligament injury. Worsfold said it was a key moment in the budding big man's career.

"When I arrived back at the club, Gardiner was the No.1 ruckman," Worsfold said.

"He was All-Australian in 2003 and Coxy was just the young kid who would come on and back him up … then he got his opportunity.

"Even then he didn't dominate and got pushed around a bit, but he had the skills and you could always see with him kicking the footy he was brilliant.

"There haven't been many like him who could kick right and left foot like he can. Jimmy Stynes was obviously a running ruckman, but some of Coxy's goals that he kicked, picking the ball up off the ground or running and bouncing, not many ruckmen can do that and look as casual as him as well."

Worsfold said an example of Cox's character came in 2008 when he played through the season with a painful foot injury and claimed his only club champion award. He also recalled the match-winning performance in a two-point victory over North Melbourne in Hobart to celebrate Kerr's 200th game in 2012 as arguably the most "imposing big man's game anyone has ever played".

Cox earned three Brownlow Medal votes that game with a starring role in both attack and defence as the Eagles overcame a six-goal deficit to win.

" … players play such different roles in clubs … But if I had to pick one, I'd lean towards Coxy."" *John Worsfold *

The West Australian

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