Eagles weigh up Jack Darling ruck role

West Coast coach Adam Simpson will consider using forward Jack Darling as a mobile ruckman as the Eagles attempt to fill the massive void left by Nic Naitanui.

Naitanui will miss up to 12 months of AFL action after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Friday’s 25-point win over Hawthorn.

Scott Lycett will take over the lead ruck role in Naitanui’s absence, but Simpson is yet to decide who to use as back-up.

Jonathan Giles, Mitch Brown, and Fraser McInnes all struggled in the back-up role when Naitanui was sidelined with Achilles tendon soreness earlier this year.

One curve -ball option available to Simpson is the 191cm Darling, who has pinch-hit through the midfield before and could prove to be a valuable mobile ruckman.

Darling has booted 40.17 this year, and moving him away from the forward line would rob West Coast of one of their best attacking threats.

His inexperience in the ruck also presents risks.

But Simpson says it’s an option he will consider.

“His strength would be – what can we get from him around the ground. That’s the appealing part,” Simpson told Perth radio station 6PR.

“But you’ve also got to think what you lose as a forward.

“It’s very hard to play that forward-ruck position, having never done it for a start.

“Also giving us something in both areas – it’s asking a fair bit. But you never know, it could be something we look to do.”

West Coast need to beat the Crows in Adelaide on Friday night if they are to guarantee themselves a home final.

A loss would likely see them slip to seventh – consigning them to an away elimination final.

West Coast’s belief has soared on the back of wins over premiership fancies GWS and Hawthorn.

The triumph over the Hawks was particularly impressive, with West Coast’s frenetic pressure and aerial supremacy reminiscent of the way they played during last year’s run to the grand final.

West Coast’s form resurgence coincided with Naitanui’s return from injury.

But Simpson has challenged his team to continue their hot run without Naitanui.

“I’d hate to think we can’t do it without him,” Simpson said.

“All our hearts were bleeding for Nic.

“But we’ve got a job to do. Our industry doesn’t give you much time to reflect, and we’ve moved on pretty quick.

“As much as we’re hurting, Nic wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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