Flying high: West Coast Eagles to unveil another AFL debutant
Eagles coach Adam Simpson will throw debutant Jarrod Brander into the deep end this week against the Swans, but will Liam Ryan play?
Brander, pick No.13 in last year's national draft, will become the club's seventh debutant of the season in Friday night's blockbuster at the SCG.
But mystery surrounds whether Ryan will be rushed back this week into the senior side.
Ryan hasn't played since injuring his right ankle while kicking a crucial goal in round three against Geelong.
The club initially had expected him to miss about 12 weeks, but he has shot into the selection mix after completing an intense training hit-out last week.
Simpson revealed Ryan would be part of the extended travelling party to Sydney, but gave no other clues about whether the cult hero would make the final 22-man squad.
"I'm not in a position now to say yes or no," Simpson said.
"But we'll take him. He's pretty sharp."
Brander faces the daunting task of filling the void left by Jack Darling, who had been in the form of his life before damaging right-ankle ligaments.
The smaller SCG can be a tough place for spearheads, and Simpson knows it won't be easy for the 19-year-old Brander to adapt.
But he's backing the 195cm forward to pull his weight.
"We throw him in the deep end," Simpson said.
"We've done it all year (with our debutants).
"I don't think we're here to wait for the right type of game for Jarrod. We need him to fill a hole for us and he'll do it."
Star midfielder Luke Shuey (hamstring) is expected to return against the Swans.
West Coast have won 10 straight and will shoot two games clear atop the AFL ladder if they can beat Sydney.
Meanwhile, 2014 club champion Eric Mackenzie will make his long-awaited return when he lines up for East Perth on Saturday in the WAFL.
The 30-year-old hasn't played since undergoing surgery in October to correct a rare condition which causes stiffness and inflammation in his big toes.
"It's been a long build-up for him. I'm not expecting too much from him," Simpson said.
"I just want to get him having fun and remember what it's like to play a bit of footy. It's good to have him back."
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