West Coast defender Eric Mackenzie is set to make his long-awaited return from a knee reconstruction in Thursday’s AFL pre-season clash with Gold Coast in Joondalup, and he’ll be joined by plenty of star power.
Mackenzie hasn’t played since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee more than a year ago against Carlton.
But the key defender has been named to make his return in a strong Eagles squad also featuring Nic Naitanui, Mark LeCras and Matt Priddis.
Captain Shannon Hurn, Josh Kennedy, Andrew Gaff, Jeremy McGovern and Scott Lycett are other additions to the 29-man squad, with the Eagles looking to bounce back from their recent 100-point flogging from Adelaide.
In contrast, Gold Coast will leave a host of their best players at home, with veterans Matt Rosa, Nick Malceski, Michael Rischitelli and Gary Ablett (foot) all missing.
Jaega O’Meara, David Swallow, Tom Lynch and Dion Prestia are other stars who were unavailable because of injury, or just rested.
Jack Martin, Jarrod Harbrow and Adam Saad return from minor injuries, with Harbrow named as captain.
Mackenzie’s return will allow the Eagles to experiment with Jeremy McGovern up forward this season.
McGovern was forced to fill a key role in defence last season, but the return to full fitness of Mackenzie and Mitch Brown will give Eagles coach Adam Simpson more flexibility at the drawing board.