West Coast young gun Tom Lamb is firming for a round-one AFL debut as the Eagles sweat on the fitness of Mitch Brown and Will Schofield heading into their season opener against the Western Bulldogs.
Lamb, the No.32 pick from last year’s national draft, has played all four matches during the pre-season, with his speed and silky touch at ground level impressing coaching staff.
The 193cm forward tallied 13 possessions and a goal in Sunday’s 19-point loss to Fremantle, and the early-season absence of Jack Darling provides Lamb with the perfect opportunity to nail down a spot in the attacking half.
Coach Adam Simpson said he’s yet to decide whether to hand the Dyson Heppell lookalike a debut for the April 4 clash with the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.
“The early signs are pretty good. He seems to have adapted pretty well to the intensity,” Simpson said.
“He’s still going to make some errors, but we’ve got to have a bit of patience.
“We also don’t want to rush him straight in. There’s another level to go to for round one. But we’ll review the game and see how he worked off the ball.”
Key defenders Brown (hamstring) and Schofield (ankle) were rested from Sunday’s match as a precaution, leaving Elliot Yeo to man Matthew Pavlich for most of the contest.
Yeo did an admirable job against the Fremantle skipper, while Jeremy McGovern also relished the extra responsibility in defence.
But with Eric Mackenzie (knee) out for the season, the Eagles desperately need Schofield and Brown back to bolster the defence.
Simpson is optimistic both will return against the Bulldogs, although he admits their injury-hit pre-seasons aren’t ideal.
“We’ve had to work on some issues with our back half,” Simpson said in reference to the injury toll.
“So in that sense we haven’t quite nailed that yet.
“Overall the health of our list is the most important thing. We think we’re in a pretty good space.”
Simpson said there was a chance both Schofield and Brown would feature in the WAFL this week.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui is ready to go for round one after producing a solid display against Fremantle in his first match of the pre-season.
Naitanui, who battled back tightness last month, tallied 12 possessions and 13 hit-outs, while Scott Selwood collected 24 disposals in a strong return from an ankle injury.