WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson has confirmed that Jack Darling will make his long-awaited return to senior football this week against Essendon at Domain Stadium on Saturday.
Darling has not played since round 23 last season after suffering a stress fracture in his foot. He hardly trained over the pre-season as the Eagles had to be extremely patient while the bone took time to heal.
Darling played his first game in the WAFL last Saturday and bagged five goals for East Perth in a match-winning performance.
Simpson told 3AW on Tuesday night that Darling was ready to go.
"He's in, he'll play this week," Simpson said.
"We won't put too much pressure on him. He had a really good performance at East Perth and he's a top five player at our club. He's ticked the right box for me."
The 22-year-old has finished in the top five of the club's best and fairest in three of his first four seasons at West Coast.
He will add even more potency to an Eagles forward line that already sits second in the AFL for scoring this season.
West Coast hosts an Essendon side that sits 14th for scoring this year. The Bombers failed to kick a goal in the first half against Geelong last week before eventually losing by 69 points.
But Simpson said he was wary of being lulled into a false sense of security after the Eagles' loss to North Melbourne last Sunday.
"I learnt a bit of a lesson from the North game," Simpson said.
"I thought there was a lot of attention put on North through Brad's comments as well. It was built up as a really disappointing game (against Collingwood the previous week).
"But when I looked at the vision, as much as North was poor, I thought Collingwood were really good.
"I get the feeling that the Geelong/Essendon game was the same.
"(The Bombers) would've been disappointed in that first half, but Geelong were red hot as well.
"So I'm looking at Essendon at their best and they've played some good footy over the last month or so, and we're preparing for their best."