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Swings of an Eagle: McGovern to head down back against Dogs

Jeremy McGovern poses for a photograph during the West Coast Eagles 2015 team photo day at Patersons Stadium, Perth on December 10, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Jeremy McGovern looks set to begin the season in defence after impressing up forward in his debut year
It's pretty handy having a 13-game player who can play forward and back
West Coast assistant coach Justin Longmuir

YOUNG West Coast forward Jeremy McGovern could start the season in defence against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night to cover the loss of key talls Eric Mackenzie and Will Schofield. 

The Eagles are set to come up against a tall Bulldogs forward line that will include Tom Boyd (200cm), Jack Redpath (194cm), Jake Stringer (192cm) and Stewart Crameri (190cm).

McGovern (195cm), who has spent the majority of the pre-season training in defence, shapes as the man to swing back in the absence of Mackenzie (knee) and Schofield, who played in the WAFL on Good Friday after recovering from an ankle injury.  

Match preview: Western Bulldogs v West Coast    

"He becomes a very important player and it's a little bit determined by what the opposition are doing with the height of their forward line," assistant coach Justin Longmuir told AFL.com.au

"It's pretty handy having a 13-game player who can play forward and back. 

"He's done a lot of his pre-season back. We've got a dual-role program for guys that are flexible where we try and rotate them through those roles in match simulation as much as possible.

"He's done probably 80 per cent of his work with the backline this year."

Aside from McGovern, who has been named at full-back, the Eagles have only named Mitch Brown as a recognised tall defender for their season opener at Etihad Stadium. 

Longmuir said the team would be on guard for the Bulldogs looking to exploit any height advantage they may have.     

"They've had a pretty tall forward line over the pre-season with Redpath and Boyd down there at times," he said.   

"Crameri's a flexible player, so he could play wing or half-forward.

"But they've got some big guys down there, so we'll have to be on guard for the long balls inside 50." 

Schofield, whose only pre-season game was against the Indigenous All Stars, was close to selection but didn't have the match practice to walk straight in, according to Longmuir.

At the other end of the ground, first-year forward Tom Lamb will get his chance to impress after playing all three NAB Challenge games, filling the void left by Jack Darling (foot). 

"He'll play a number of roles in the forward line," Longmuir said as the Eagles had a light training run at Junction Oval on Saturday.    

"He probably hasn't got the physical capabilities of 'JD' (Darling) just yet, but his work rate is phenomenal and the attitude he brings to each training session has got him to this point."

Defender Jackson Nelson will also make his debut for West Coast on Saturday night, while former Carlton midfielder Kane Lucas has been elevated from the rookie list and travelled as the emergency.