JACK Redden expects livewire Willie Rioli will bring a different dynamic to West Coast’s midfield next season, and isn’t fussed if the Eagles’ premiership-winning engine room still isn’t rated by outsiders.
The Eagles’ onball division was much-maligned heading into 2018, but took it up to the League’s elite under the guidance of departed assistant coach Sam Mitchell.
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West Coast overpowered Melbourne’s up-and-coming youngsters in a thumping preliminary final win and matched Collingwood’s stars in the Grand Final.
But the Eagles’ midfield was incredibly still only rated 15th by the League’s stats gurus Champion Data last November.
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However, Redden wasn’t affronted by critics refusing to rate West Coast’s onballers.
“We got the results last year because we were playing good team footy. ‘Mitch’ (Mitchell) had us all playing our role,” Redden said.
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“We’ve got some stars through the midfield and then we’ve got some great role players through there as well, so I think we’ve got a really good mix.
We don’t mind being in that position, not being an A-grade midfield. – Jack Redden
“We all know our roles and we had success last year.
“Personally, I don’t really care (if we’re underestimated) and I don’t really know.”
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Nathan van Berlo has taken over the reins since Mitchell rejoined Hawthorn and has put his own twist on the midfield.
Rioli, a centre clearance specialist, has been earmarked for more time up the ground and has trimmed down significantly.
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“It’s exciting to see those types with a bit of speed, those forward line players, come in and have a little burst in there,” Redden said.
“He’s always good to watch when he’s in there.
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“It just gives us a different dynamic and some of us slow blokes it helps us, and (he brings) good pressure around the contest.”
Ruck recruit Tom Hickey is also being integrated into the line-up, and Redden backed the ex-Saint to push Nathan Vardy for the No.1 spot.
“It’s a bit like Scotty Lycett and Vards last year – they trained really well and pushed each other and that’s why they had good years,” he said.
“Hick’s had a good impact since he’s been here. He’s a different type of ruckman, he gets on the move a lot.
“We have good conversations about what he wants to do and what he wants us to do.
“Early days, he was probably hitting it a little bit too hard and we had to adjust to that.
“Vards is an honest competitor and he works really hard, so it’s hard to pick one yet, but you’ve seen what Vards has done last year.”
The Eagles could continue their two-ruck policy early next season, and seem certain to play two big men once Nic Naitanui returns from his second knee reconstruction.
West Coast has begun exploring the impact of with new rule changes, particularly at centre bounces after the new 6-6-6 starting positions, and been boosted by dual club champion Elliot Yeo’s return to match simulation after toe surgery.
“I think he’s doing 9-10km sessions now, so that’s a real positive for him and the club,” said Redden, who finished runner-up to Yeo in the John Worsfold Medal last year.
“I think the aim would be for round one, I’m not sure about JLT (Community Series).
“I don’t really know his rehab plan, but he looks like he’s not too far off.”
Star defender Jeremy McGovern was back training on Monday and appeared unrestricted in his movement two weeks after undergoing rib surgery.
Spearhead Josh Kennedy (shoulder), Jamie Cripps (toe), Tom Barrass (toe) and Jake Waterman (ankle) weren’t sighted at Lathlain Park before the session was closed to media, while Daniel Venables (knee) was on light duties.