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Son of gun Eagle feels the heat to earn debut

Jake Waterman is aiming for an early-season debut with the Eagles - AFL,West Coast Eagles,Jake Waterman
Jake Waterman is aiming for an early-season debut with the Eagles
'Simmo' (coach Adam Simpson) has made it really clear there's plenty of spots up for grabs and your form will warrant whether you get a game.
Jake Waterman

NOT MUCH went Jake Waterman's way during his first season at West Coast. 

But if there is a silver lining to the foot stress fracture and illness that probably cost him a debut, it is that the 19-year-old is determined to make up for lost time.    

Now, after a hiccup-free summer, Waterman is eyeing a position in the Eagles' evolving forward line for the round one blockbuster against Sydney.  

"'Simmo' (coach Adam Simpson) has made it really clear there's plenty of spots up for grabs and your form will warrant whether you get a game," Waterman told AFL.com.au

"That's something I'm aiming to do, if I get my chance in JLT (Community Series), is to play as well as I can and hopefully lock it down for the next game. 

"If I get to debut round one or early on in the year I'll be absolutely stoked." 

Despite spending most of last year rehabbing his foot, Waterman was close to a call-up for West Coast's farewell to Domain Stadium in round 23. 

However, an untimely chest infection meant he barely trained all week and struggled to run laps two days before the game. 

"I wasn't in any condition to play if I got my debut. I ended up playing against Subi in the WAFL, but I could barely breathe," he said. 

"It was probably the worst time I could've gotten sick really. 

"I was pretty unlucky, but I didn't ever think I was going to be that close, so I took a lot of confidence from that." 

After being knocked around by his illness and with his fitness curtailed by two stints in a moon boot, Waterman resolved to get to work over pre-season and has noticeably changed his body shape. 

The father-son draftee is more ripped and leaner – his physique shaped partly by Bikram yoga sessions - but hasn't lost much weight and is still hovering around the 92kg mark.

"I'm not looking as sloppy as last year," Waterman said.

"I've put on a bit of muscle and I've lost a bit of chub. 

"I've worked really hard on my skinfolds and doing extra bodyweight stuff. 

"Over summer I was down at the Bikram yoga and it is that hard.

"The first session I nearly passed out but you get used to it and get a massive workout. 

"If you've got a strong core it will hold your body up and you won't have as many injuries."

Waterman believes he could eventually become West Coast's spearhead – although the mobile 191cm tall might need another growth spurt to be viewed as Josh Kennedy's heir apparent – and is also open to running through the midfield engine room. 

But his first avenue into the side appears to be as a link-up forward, so he's picked classy veteran Mark LeCras' brain and is trying to model his game on hard-running Adelaide star Tom Lynch.

"I don't know how (Lynch) gets so much of the ball," Waterman said. 

"Whenever Adelaide plays West Coast I always keep an eye on him and see how he moves, because he's such a smart player ahead of the footy, a neat kick and he sets everything up. 

"Hopefully I can push up the ground up a little bit more and get some more fitness and play that role just being able to get up and back, up and back. 

"I've already learnt so much off 'Lecca' (LeCras) this pre-season, he always helps out the young fellas a lot." 

When Waterman does debut - following in the footsteps of his father and dual West Coast premiership hero Chris - it will no doubt be a bittersweet moment for his family. 

His older brother Alec had his chance at the Eagles wrecked after being struck down by glandular fever, and was delisted just months before his younger sibling was taken with the final pick, No.77 overall, in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft.

"(Alec's) still getting better. Hopefully he can play a bit of footy (at Claremont) this year," Waterman said.

"He's been a lot happier this year being around his mates at the footy club.

"We're all behind him and whatever he decides to do we'll support that."