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Low expectations on 'nervous' Eagle Mackenzie

Alex Malcolm  March 2, 2016 5:27 PM

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AFL 2016 Training - West Coast Eagles 200116

Eric Mackenzie will make his return from a knee reconstruction against Gold Coast

He got three possessions. A bit more than that would be handy

WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson says star defender Eric Mackenzie is both nervous and excited about fitting back into the Eagles' defence after missing 12 months following a knee reconstruction.

Mackenzie has been named to play against Gold Coast on Thursday at Joondalup. It will be his first game since he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the NAB Challenge last year. 

The Eagles have opted not to risk Luke Shuey and Sharrod Wellingham against the Suns, as both have copped minor knocks at training in recent weeks. Both are expected to be fine for the Eagles' final NAB Challenge match against Essendon.

Mackenzie's return to the side is a boost for the Eagles but Simpson said they have low expectations for the 2014 best and fairest. 

"He's excited," Simpson said on Wednesday. 

"He looks the same player as when he hurt himself this time last year.

"No doubt he'll be nervous, and our expectations aren't high. It's just to get through the game – a bit like Browny (Mitch Brown) last week, to get that excitement of playing a game of footy."

Simpson said part of Mackenzie's nerves surrounded fitting back into the Eagles' defence that had evolved so successfully without him in 2015. 

"The team has moved on from 2014," Simpson said. 

"He'll adapt to that. We'll adapt to him a little bit. The way we work down back is a bit based on our personnel as well. So it's a different dynamic, which will take a bit of time."

Simpson said it was possible for Mackenzie, Brown, Jeremy McGovern and Will Schofield to play in the same side together.

"It depends who we play," Simpson said.

"They're pretty flexible as well. Schofield cut his teeth playing on smaller players. He really turned into a bigger key defender last year due to circumstances. He's flexible, and so is 'Gov'. 

McGovern is set to play his first game of the pre-season on Thursday and Simpson was coy about where he would play but it appears he is likely to start in defence. 

Simpson confirmed that Scott Lycett would partner Nic Naitanui in the ruck after he missed the first NAB Challenge match against Adelaide with a slight ankle problem. 

Simpson said new recruit Jonathan Giles was one of the few Eagles to perform well against the Crows but he was keen to give Lycett an opportunity.

The Eagles were very disappointed with their 100-point loss to Adelaide despite picking a very inexperienced side.

New recruit Lewis Jetta was extremely quiet against the Crows but Simpson said he had not put too much weight on that performance.

"He got three possessions. A bit more than that would be handy," Simpson said. 

"But once again I'm not going over the top with that. We'll see how we go on (Thursday) and we'll make a better judgement on Monday on everything." 

Jack Redden (adductor) and Dom Sheed (knee) are also tracking well and should be available to play in either the Eagles' third NAB Challenge match against Essendon next week or for East Perth in the WAFL prior to round one. 

Mark Hutchings is also unavailable this week due to a slight niggle but Simpson said it was minor.