West Coast are backing Jeremy McGovern to become the club’s new rock in defence after Mitch Brown’s worst fears were confirmed.
Brown will miss the rest of the AFL season after scans revealed he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee for a second time.
The 26-year-old is expected to undergo a traditional knee reconstruction after suffering the injury in Saturday’s 10-point loss to the Western Bulldogs.
With Eric Mackenzie (knee) also out for the season and Beau Waters forced into premature retirement, McGovern will be entrusted with leading a makeshift defence for the rest of the season.
Will Schofield will also have to lock down on some of the competition’s heavyweight forwards, with midfielder Elliot Yeo another player who may be asked to punch above his weight down back.
McGovern was superb against the Bulldogs.
The 22-year-old swingman restricted Tom Boyd to just one goal, and racked up 26 disposals and 12 marks himself.
Eagles forward Josh Kennedy said McGovern’s potential was huge – at both ends of the ground.
“It was only his 14th game, which is crazy. He’s going to be a star,” Kennedy said on Monday.
“I’d love him to come up forward with us, because he can take a good clunk.
“But he had a terrific game (in defence).
“Hopefully he can hold the fort down back for us.
“I thought the backline held up well.
“The Bulldogs had 58 inside 50s compared to our 41. Our defence were under the pump, but they held strong.”
Brown also missed the entire 2008 season because of a ruptured ACL.
Kennedy said the player group would rally around the 26-year-old, whose twin brother Nathan also has a history of knee issues.
“It’s sad, but it’s football – it’s a part of it,” Kennedy said.
“Browny’s been through it before. He showed a high spirit last time.
“We’ve lost two key players, but the boys are still in high spirits and we’re all positive.”
Forward Jack Darling is still on the comeback trail from a serious foot injury, leaving the Eagles in short supply at both ends of the ground.
West Coast’s midfield copped a pasting against the Bulldogs, but Kennedy is confident the team can bounce back in Friday night’s clash with Carlton in Perth.
Schofield missed the loss to the Bulldogs in order to build up match fitness in the WAFL, but he’ll be rushed back into the side in the wake of Brown’s injury.
The Blues were beaten by Richmond in their season opener, and will be without star midfielder Dale Thomas (shoulder).