Eagles ruck blow comes at a bad time

West Coast have been dealt another ruck blow heading into Sunday’s crunch AFL clash with North Melbourne after Fraser McInnes was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

McInnes will miss at least four weeks after tearing his hamstring while playing for East Perth in the WAFL.

The injury comes at a bad time for the Eagles, who are already without Nic Naitanui heading into their battle with North Melbourne’s All-Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein at Domain Stadium.

Scott Lycett will again lead the ruck for West Coast, but finding an adequate back-up is proving tough.

Defender Mitch Brown struggled in the role during last week’s big win over Essendon, while Jonathan Giles is better suited to an out-and-out ruck role rather than as a back-up.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson has the option of using star defender Jeremy McGovern as a back-up to Lycett, but that move comes with big risks given McGovern’s knack of picking up painful knocks.

Naitanui is set to miss at least another month after undergoing surgery to ease Achilles tendon pain in both of his feet last month.

Simpson said he was yet to decide who would provide back-up for Lycett this week.

But he knows it will need to be someone good if they are to curb the influence of Goldstein, who rucks for the majority of games.

“I don’t think we’ve won the clearances in the two games that Nic hasn’t played,” Simpson told Perth radio station 6PR.

“But the scores from stoppages is 22 goals to eight (in our favour) in that time, albeit against sides who are still developing and working through their own form in Essendon and Brisbane.

“So (it’s) a pretty good output in quality, just not the quantity we’re used to.”

Sunday’s match looms as a critical battle in the top-four hopes of both West Coast and North.

The Eagles (9-5) sit in eighth spot, but are just one win and five percentage points adrift of the second-placed Cats.

North Melbourne (10-4) are seventh; equal on points with the Cats and only one win behind ladder leaders Hawthorn.

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