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The Eagles' unlikely ruck saviour

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Nathan Vardy will be hoping to pluck a few more marks like this against GWS - AFL,West Coast Eagles,Nathan Vardy
Nathan Vardy will be hoping to pluck a few more marks like this against GWS
When he first got here, he trained really well, earned the respect of everybody
Dean Cox on Nathan Vardy

NATHAN Vardy learned the value of resilience during seven seasons at Geelong and now the fit-again big man is reaping the rewards.

Vardy has played 21 games during his first season with West Coast, almost doubling his career tally.

The 26-year-old was drafted in 2009 but suffered through foot, ankle, knee, groin, hip, shoulder, back and pelvis setbacks of varying severity during the ensuing seven years.

The Victorian's athleticism and flexibility meant he served the Cats as a forward capable of pinch-hitting in the ruck, a roaming ruck-forward, and a mobile ruckman at various points of the journey.

The debate over where Vardy fits best will continue at the Eagles next year, when Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett should be fully fit, but he has relished the responsibility of being first ruck in the absence of the injured duo.

Dean Cox, West Coast's legendary ruckman, who now sits in their coaches' box, has been helping Vardy develop his tap work.

"He's always been honest and up front with how he's feeling, how he reflects on his game. It's a great trait to have," Cox said.

"He's had a lot of setbacks throughout his career but worked extremely hard.

"With the circumstances (caused by injuries to Naitanui and Lycett) there was a window to work with someone who hadn't rucked too much but had a lot of attributes that could develop into a consistent performer."

Vardy fit that bill and has impressed Cox and co. from day one of pre-season training.

"When he first got here, he trained really well, earned the respect of everybody and fitted in extremely well," Cox said.

"He's performed really well ... doing a full pre-season has helped, he's certainly got a lot more confidence in his body and that is starting to show."

 

It would have been understandable if the Eagles had rolled the dice and recalled Naitanui for Saturday's semi-final against Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium, such is the superstar's game-breaking potential.

But the form of Vardy and Drew Petrie, including a last-start battle with Port gun Paddy Ryder, was part of the reason the visitors resisted that temptation.

"The overriding thing was that we were really proud of our rucks' effort last week," Eagles assistant coach Justin Longmuir said on Friday.

"They were able to negate one of the best rucks in the comp."