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July 14th, 2018 by admin

Why West Coast should trade Jack Darling to secure a midfield young gun

Could Jack Darling be used as trade bait? Photo: Quinn Rooney Darling has had a tendency to go missing in big games. Photo: Paul Kane
Nanjing Night Net

South Warrnambool’s Hugh McCluggage playing for Vic Country at the AFL under 18 national championships. Photo: Arj Giese

Andrew McGrath was best on ground in TAC Cup Grand Final in Sandringham Dragons premiership win. Photo: AFL Media/Getty Images

Will Brodie is another midfielder who has be touted a possible top draft pick. Photo: Emma Quayle

So far all the talk out out of the Eagles camp pre-trade period has been about finding a replacement for injured ruckman Nic Naitanui. Photo: Will Russell/AFL Media

A week out from the start of the AFL trade period and chatter about West Coast forward Jack Darling being traded is again gaining momentum.

The Eagles have said on numerous occasions the power forward is off the table, but WAtoday understands the 24-year-old’s recent player review with Adam Simpson could have changed that, with the club open to trading him for the right price.

The scuttlebutt doing the rounds is the Eagles will offer Jack Darling to Essendon – reuniting him with his first AFL coach John Worsfold – along with their first round pick (12) for the Bombers plumb number one pick.

On the surface any trade talk about Darling, who kicked 44 goals for the Eagles in 2016, would seem like lunacy, until you look at what football experts are saying about the top five picks in this year’s AFL National Draft.

Only this week, former Crows coach and 2016 NAB AFL Academy coach Brenton Sanderson and afl南京夜网419论坛 draft expert Cal Twomey outlined their prospective top five picks.

All of them are what the Eagles desperately need: classy midfielders.

North Ballarat Rebels young gun Hugh McCluggage is firming as the number one and is a goal-kicking midfielder the Eagles are crying out for.

He won the TAC Cup’s Morrish Medal after averaging 29 disposals and kicking 23 goals in the 10-game home and away season.

McCluggage also kicked four goals to help lead his team to victory in the NAB AFL All Stars under-18 game on Friday before the grand final

Will Brodie (Murray Bushrangers), Sam Petrevski-Seton (Claremont), Jack Bowes (Cairns – but part of Gold Coast’s academy) and Andrew McGrath (Sandringham Dragons) are the other four midfielders (McGrath is a defender who can run through the middle) who expected to go early.

“This is a strong draft pool around Pick 1 and midfielders,” Sanderson told the AFL’s Road to the Draft podcast.

The problem for West Coast is, by the time their first round pick comes around these young guns will have already been snapped up.

The only way the Eagles could pick one up is if they traded their way up the order and that would likely require getting rid of a big ticket player. Enter Darling.

The Eagles’ midfield depth is very shallow and the club’s number one ballwinner Matt Priddis doesn’t have that many years left in his legs, as he turns 32 next season.

West Coast could get better service in the middle next year if Dom Sheed is able to get a full season under his belt and his inside grunt work was a key factor in the clubs late season surge of good form.

But beyond Sheed, there is no ready-made midfielder in the Eagles’ best 22 who can get his own ball.

West Coast attempted to increase its midfield depth last season with the addition of Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden however, that experiment has been an abject failure, so far.

If Priddis, Sheed or Luke Shuey were to get a long-term injury next year, the choice of players for the Eagles to bring in are slim at best.

What’s worse for the Eagles is that players the club drafted in previous years haven’t developed as they would have liked at its WAFL affiliate East Perth.

So the club needs to play hard-ball during the trade week and attempt to recruit another future A-grade midfielder, with Darling is looming as the key.

There is no denying Darling is a prodigious talent but his tendency to “go missing” in big games must be a concern for the club.

He certainly didn’t win over critics after he “pulled out” of a mark in the last quarter against the Western Bulldogs in the first week of the finals with Doggies’ youngster Josh Dunkley bearing down on him.

And his grand final performance against the Hawks in 2015 was a nightmare.

All the pre-trade period mail coming out of the Eagles camp is about the club’s search for a replacement for injured ruckman Nic Naitanui.

While West Coast do need a back-up big man for the underperforming Scott Lycett and the giant plodder Jon Giles, if they are going to be seriously challengers next year and beyond, the club has to start beefing up its midfield.

After all it was in the midfield where the Eagles lost the battle in its 2016 Elimination Final against the eventual premiers the Western Bulldogs.

In that match West Coast were smashed in the midfield, losing the contested possessions, disposals and clearances count despite still winning the hitouts 52-30 (without Naitanui).

So, instead of spending all its energy looking for ruck support, West Coast should focus on improving its midfield depth.

And Darling could be the carrot the club dangles to achieve that. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.