Reuben Ginbey, Harley Reid and Elijah Hewett ahead of the 2024 season. Picture: AFL Photos

Ins and outs

IN

Tyler Brockman (trade, Hawthorn), Matt Flynn (free agent, Greater Western Sydney), Clay Hall (No.38 draft pick), Harvey Johnston (No.49 draft pick), Coen Livingstone (Category B rookie, Academy), Archer Reid (No.30 draft pick), Harley Reid (No.1 draft pick), Loch Rawlinson (Rookie Draft)

OUT

Greg Clark (delisted), Luke Foley (delisted), Shannon Hurn (retired), Nic Naitanui (retired), Xavier O’Neill (delisted), Samo Petrevski-Seton (delisted), Luke Shuey (retired), Connor West (delisted), Isiah Winder (delisted)

Medical room

Regular setbacks have frustrated the Eagles this pre-season, with hamstring injuries to Jack Darling and Tim Kelly providing minor hiccups, while hamstring tendon surgery for Liam Ryan was more significant and will likely sideline him for the early rounds. Dom Sheed (foot) is racing the clock to be fit for round one and has been slow to ramp up his program, with Elijah Hewett facing a longer spell on the sidelines with sesamoiditis. Jai Culley is advanced in his recovery from an ACL injury suffered in round eight last season.

Liam Ryan at West Coast training in May, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Three burning questions

Can the Eagles’ youngsters lead a competitive revival?
West Coast will be keen to hand more responsibility to youngsters like Reuben Ginbey, Elijah Hewett, Campbell Chesser, Noah Long and Brady Hough this season, but the club will also demand an end to the 100-point losses that marred 2023. If that emerging core that will take the club forward can play a significant role in reinstating some competitive standards, it will be a big win for the Eagles.

Does Adam Simpson remain the man for West Coast’s new era?
So much changed around Adam Simpson this off-season in the Eagles’ key off-field posts, giving the club a fresh feel and underlining the start of a new era. For his part, Simpson put time into his own approach and looked at the best ways to coach young players. The premiership coach is contracted until the end of 2025, but this season will help decide if the right coach to continue the rebuild.

What role do the Eagles’ senior stars have in 2024?
The Eagles’ best team on paper could go through significant change from March to August. Accomplished players like Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed and Jack Darling will all have young players coming for their spots and improved performances will be needed to justify their selection. All are capable of putting in strong seasons and providing crucial on-field leadership, but it’s an open question ahead of round one.

Andrew Gaff looks on after West Coast’s loss to Essendon in round 11, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Track watch

There is instant improvement coming for West Coast based on the form of their inclusions, with ruckman Matt Flynn and small forward Tyler Brockman among those impressing this summer. Brockman in particular has been a crafty link player between the midfield and half-forward, even pinch-hitting for centre bounces. Premiership midfielder Elliot Yeo looks in fantastic shape before round one, while Brady Hough has added significant size to hold down a role as a third tall defender.

Fantasy lock

It was no surprise to see the Eagles lock in the highly talented Harley Reid (FWD/MID, $300,000) with their No.1 selection and we dare say he will also be the most selected Fantasy player at the start of the season as he ticks all the boxes. He is a ready-made strong midfielder who brings plenty of aggression and he is more than capable of accumulating marks to keep the score ticking over.

Instant hit

Prized pick No.1 Harley Reid has been everything the club could have hoped for this pre-season, adjusting to the life of a professional footballer and performing at an outstanding level for a draftee in match practice. His mix of strength and burst speed in the midfield has impressed teammates and he’s adjusted to an initial role as an attacking half-back who rotates on the ball. If fit, the teenager looks certain to debut in round one.

Harley Reid at West Coast photo day ahead of the 2024 AFL season. Picture: AFL Photos

It’s a big year for …

Jack Darling and Andrew Gaff. The Eagles’ class of 2010, with 277 and 275 games respectively, enter their 14th seasons with pressure on their spots. For Darling, there is forward/ruck Bailey Williams who will be a new tall target in attack, while Ryan Maric, Jake Waterman and eventually Jack Williams will push to be the third option alongside Oscar Allen. On Gaff’s wing, the Eagles would love to see Campbell Chesser make a compelling case to move into the best 18, with Luke Edwards among the younger midfielders having a strong pre-season. Darling and Gaff are in the Eagles’ best team, but it’s a question of when will others be better long-term options?

Pass mark

There’s a lot the Eagles are targeting in 2024 that they can be judged on. Competitive performances should be expected and playing with spirit should be a weekly non-negotiable. Establishing the baseline of a game plan that focuses on the contest and applying pressure is in their sights, and the club needs to get on top of the injury issues that have plagued it. If all of that is achieved and five to seven wins follow, it will be a good foundation to build from.

Best 23 for 2024

B: Tom Cole, Tom Barrass, Brady Hough 
HB: Harley Reid, Jeremy McGovern, Liam Duggan 
C: Jayden Hunt, Reuben Ginbey, Dom Sheed 
HF: Tyler Brockman, Jack Darling, Jamie Cripps
F: Noah Long, Oscar Allen, Liam Ryan 
Foll: Matt Flynn, Elliot Yeo, Tim Kelly  
I/C: Bailey Williams, Jamaine Jones, Elijah Hewett, Jack Petruccelle, Andrew Gaff

Emerg: Ryan Maric, Alex Witherden, Campbell Chesser