West Coast on-baller Adam Selwood has defended teammate Daniel Kerr, saying the 2007 All-Australian does not have to be the player he once was to be important in the midfield.
Kerr, 27, came in for criticism from Brownlow medallist Shane Crawford in the wake of the Eagles' defeat at Patersons Stadium against a tackle-conscious Sydney.
The former Hawthorn star said he feared the game was going too fast for Kerr.
Sydney's work in the clinches was crucial to the result with the visitors winning the tackle count 111-69 and Kieren Jack limiting Kerr to 13 disposals.
"We know that he's a very quick player, but in his first game back against Port Adelaide I've never seen him tackled so much," Crawford wrote in his Melbourne newspaper column.
"Even last week he was tackled a lot … I think the game is slowly heading past Daniel Kerr."
Saturday's game against Hawthorn in Launceston will be the first time Kerr has played five matches in successive weeks since rounds 3-7 in 2009.
Selwood said the increased intensity of the game on return from a serious hamstring injury had probably come as a shock to Kerr.
"Kerrey's had probably three years of interrupted footy and within that time the game has gone to a level where tackling is the No.1 precedent," Selwood said.
"I think for him it might be a bit of a shock, the level of intensity and the new-age football of pressing up into players' faces, but he'll sort that out.
"If the game's gone past him, then it's probably gone past Matthew Priddis and myself a long time ago.
"I've got full faith that he'll get back and whether he's exactly the player he was beforehand it doesn't really matter, as long as he adds something different to our midfield mix."
Kerr conceded to Seven News that Crawford was probably right in the assessment about him being tackled more than in his prime.
"It's something I have to look at, whether the opposition are better at tackling or whether I'm getting slower or a combination of the both," Kerr said.
"But I'm only two games back in so hopefully I can get a little bit of space in the latter part of the season and start showing what I can do.
"As much as people probably aren't expecting my best, I really do expect a lot more from myself than what I gave against Sydney."
Eagles coach John Worsfold said the fact Kerr was getting through matches and backing up each week showed he was on track.
He said it would take a few weeks for Kerr to pick up the real speed of the game, pointing out that he had not been the only Eagle tackled repeatedly by Sydney.
"It was a good, tough game of footy," Worsfold said. "It wasn't just for Daniel Kerr, everyone was in the same boat. He didn't get tackled 111 times."