X marks spot to 100 games
X marks spot to 100 games

Recruiting mature-aged players in the AFL is a fraught business. The complete package is rarely on offer. You have to weigh your need for the strengths on offer against your tolerance for the weakness.

Sometimes you get the journeyman player with the sound body and good training habits. Think Quinten Lynch to Collingwood.

Sometimes you get the great player with sound body, dodgy training habits and character to match. Think Brendan Fevola to Brisbane.

And sometimes you get the good player, good character with the dodgy body. Think Xavier Ellis to West Coast.

It is a punt, more often than not. West Coast coach Adam Simpson has reason to feel that his free-agency punt on Ellis has paid off.

The left-footer, who played his first game for Hawthorn at the age of 19 in 2007, will play his 100th game against Brisbane at the Gabba tonight at the age of 26.

It will be his 14th match of the season for the Eagles, who are playing their 16th. That might be a run-of-the-mill statistic for some AFL players, but it's a number that time has given Ellis reason to dream about.

To put his run with injury in context, Fremantle's Anthony Morabito, who has had three knee reconstructions and four years out of the AFL, could still make it to the century quicker than Ellis if his form and fitness hold out from this point on.

When Simpson and the Eagles assessed Ellis late last year, they had every reason to believe he was good enough to play in any team if his body held up. He was a premiership player as a 20-year-old at Hawthorn in 2008 and a grand final player in 2012.

They had no reason to believe his body would hold up. He had played 16 games in three seasons between the end of 2010 and the start of this season. Ellis, it seemed, had a brain, will and skill level made for the AFL and a body built to break.

"I am really happy for Xavier," Simpson said.

"To come over here and manage his body and fit into the club the way that he has and then play consistent football for the most part of the year is a credit to him and his preparation.

"I don't think we have seen the best of Ellis yet so I am looking forward to the next 100."

Ellis, who Simpson calls "X", came on a one-year deal and is, touch wood, cross fingers and barring a late-season mishap, on track to get a contract extension.

He has been steady in a tough season at his new club.

The West Australian

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