Tom Boyd may be the big-name recruit, but rising Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli looms as West Coast’s biggest obstacle in Saturday night’s AFL clash at Etihad Stadium.
The Bulldogs’ on-ball division has been in hot form during the pre-season, with 19-year-old Bontempelli the standout.
The No.4 pick from the 2013 national draft is set to be heavily tagged this year, and Eagles midfielder Scott Selwood looms as his likely opponent this week.
“He’s the number one clearance player over pre-season,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said of Bontempelli.
“We need to make sure we don’t allow him the ease with which he’s had over the last few weeks.
“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket, but we need to make sure we’re accountable for him.”
Boyd joined the Bulldogs on a seven-year deal reportedly worth more than $6 million, and the 19-year-old has an early chance to fire against an under-manned West Coast defence.
Eagles defender Eric Mackenzie is already out for the season with a knee injury, while Will Schofield will play in the WAFL this weekend after battling an ankle injury in recent weeks.
Bulldogs forward Stewart Crameri is free to play after 34 past and present Essendon players were found not guilty of doping offences earlier this week.
West Coast will hand debuts to forward Tom Lamb and defender Jackson Nelson, but gun forward Jack Darling is still several weeks away from returning because of a foot injury.
Simpson has been impressed by new Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge.
The pair previously worked together as assistant coaches at Hawthorn, but contact has been understandably limited in the lead-up to Saturday’s clash.
“He’s a good man Bevo,” Simpson said.
“I shared an office with Luke at the Hawks. I think they have done a good job in getting him in and hopefully he wins many games after this week.”