Two rivals, one issue: Defender duets in doubt for Derby

Barrass Ryan
Two of the three defenders under question marks for Sunday. Photos: Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles

Coming into Sunday’s clash, West Coast and Fremantle both have clouds over several prolific defenders. The Dockers’ Luke Ryan and Brennan Cox and the Eagles’ Tom Barrass both remain in doubt for the Sunday afternoon blockbuster.

For the Eagles, Adam Simpson reported Tom Barrass is “still holding out hope” for selection after receiving a shoulder knock against Geelong.

“He got a knock really late in the game in the shoulder, so he didn’t have another contest after it so he couldn’t really test it out, so we’re leaving it to the last minute,” Simpson said.

“We’ll test him out tomorrow morning [Saturday].

“With the teams these days, you don’t have to put the teams in ‘til pretty late, so we won’t be mucking around. If he’s not in, he’s not in, but we’ll give him every chance to play.”

West Coast’s backline is already down a soldier with Jeremy McGovern ruled out for up to three weeks with a groin complaint.

Emerging defender Harry Edwards is a confirmed replacement for the All-Australian and will work beside Barrass’ injury replacement, playing only his second game.

“He’s 200cm… he’s competitive, we think he’s ready, as ready as he can be at the moment,” Simpson said.

“We need him to stand up for us and play like he’s played 50 games. He’s been [an] emergency for a few weeks, he’s playing pretty good WAFL footy under duress.

“Regardless of personnel, we’ve been doing the same thing for long enough that people can come in and play their role and that’s what we’ll lean on this week.”

Shannon Hurn, who will break Dean Cox’s club record for most games played, is set to return to the side. His expertise and skill will strengthen the backline, as will his leadership.

Returning too, is Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy will take his place in the forward line on Sunday.

With two tall defenders down, Adam Simpson is forced to get creative and has thrown Oscar Allen’s name around as Barrass’ injury replacement.

“We think [Allen] is a really good forward for us, but he came into the side a couple of years ago as a back and he’s played ruck as well,” Simpson explained.

However, Simpson is hopeful Barrass’ injury will subside and leave him available to play to avoid selection dilemmas.

Should Barrass be unfit, he will be another addition to West Coast’s ever growing list of injured stars that already includes Luke Shuey, Liam Ryan and Elliot Yeo.

To cover these big names, the Eagles are still trying to find a system and a balance that works for them.

“We’re trying to find a balance for us, you chop and change every week, it’s hard to be consistent,” Simpson said.

“We’ve got a system that we play. We like to think your personnel changes play the same brand, but there’s a challenge with that.

“Some players are experiencing some different roles and that will hold us in good stead down the track.

“We’re working through that, it’s not perfect, and hopefully we settle down in the next few weeks.”

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Across town, injury concerns hover over All Australian defender Luke Ryan and Brennan Cox.

At this stage, the latter seems to be travelling better than the former, who according to Longmuir is “tracking pretty well.”

On the other hand, Ryan’s calf hindered him in Tuesday’s training session and was unable to complete Thursday’s main session.

Like Barrass, Ryan and Cox’s chances of selection all rest on a fitness test.

“If he passes that we’ll play him, if he doesn’t we won’t take any risks,” Longmuir said.

Fremantle’s backline is already depleted, with Joel Hamling and Alex Pearce previously struck down with an ankle and knee injury respectively.

Additionally, Adam Cerra is out for three to four weeks with an ankle issue, while Brett Bewley, Sam Switkowski and Hayden Young are still on the sidelines with longer term injuries.

Justin Longmuir has Tobe Watson on standby to replace Ryan or Cox should they fail to get up for Sunday’s game.

“He was unlucky to go out of the side against Adelaide,” he said.

“The week before he played his role, he played it really well.

“If a mishap happens with one of those other two, Tobe’s probably the likely replacement.”

With a list so rife with injuries, Longmuir states they’re still finding balance within their team, and searching for a combination that works.

“Internally, we’re still trying to strike the right balance in our team,” he said.

“I think you’re consistently tweaking your team to see what works best and clearly opposition plays a part in that, I think your own balance plays more of a part.”   

After an extended period on the sidelines, midfielder Darcy Tucker is set to make his return.

The 24 year-old played eight games last year until he sustained a hamstring injury against Geelong, forcing him to go under the knife.

Playing for Peel Thunder’s reserves a fortnight ago, he delivered a solid performance, with 32 touches, seven marks and three tackles, impressing his coach.

“He’s in our best 22 for sure,” Longmuir said.

“I think he’s got a good body of work behind him. He can play multiple roles for us, he adds flexibility in the midfield and other areas of the ground so we’ll welcome him back this week.”

The cross town rivals will battle on Sunday at Optus Stadium in front of 45,000 fans in the 52nd edition of the Western Derby.

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