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Eagle has Lecca's number, but will he get champ's spot?

Jake Waterman has his sights set on a permanent place in West Coast's forward line - AFL,West Coast Eagles,Jake Waterman
Jake Waterman has his sights set on a permanent place in West Coast's forward line

JAKE Waterman might have snapped up Mark LeCras' guernsey, but the West Coast youngster isn't taking it for granted he'll be next in line for the retired premiership forward's spot.

Waterman has swapped the No.45 jumper for the No.2 vacated by LeCras after 213 games and 434 goals (he also kicked seven majors from six matches in the No.19).

With LeCras calling time on a decorated career, Waterman also seems in pole position to take his place in attack when the Eagles kick off their flag defence, but he isn't getting caught up in the talk.

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"People have said that a little bit, but everyone's going to put their hand up and it's not just Lecca's spot up for grabs, everyone has still got to play their best and get the most out of themselves," Waterman told AFL.com.au.  

"Just because I played a bit of senior footy last season doesn't mean I'm entitled to anything, really.

"I've still got to work my arse off and do everything I can, not just to take Lecca's spot, just to get in the forward line."

Waterman's first season at West Coast was wrecked by a foot stress fracture but the mobile 20-year-old made up for lost time with an impressive 2018.

He was picked to debut in the round one loss to Sydney and was a handy contributor as the Eagles reeled-off a 10-game winning streak before the bye.

Waterman pushed up the ground in a link-up role and quickly found his feet, nailing 12 goals and averaging five marks in his first 11 matches.

But his form tailed off, not helped by instability in attack caused by twin towers Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling's injury-enforced absences in the second half of the campaign.

Waterman didn't kick a major in his last four games and, after being dropped following the round 19 loss to North Melbourne, the versatile 191cm forward was unable to force his way back in for the club's surge to the Grand Final.

"When JK and JD came back I was on the outer and couldn't really squeeze back in there," he said.

"Some games we got found out a little bit (without them) and that was probably the start of me drifting out of the team, I just lost form during that period." 

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Despite missing out on the flag and chance to follow in his dual premiership-winning father Chris' footsteps, Waterman was philosophical dealing with the obvious disappointment.

He was a nervous watcher at the MCG on Grand Final day, chewing his "nails down to the knuckles" in the tense final quarter, and was elated that his teammates got over the line in an epic.

"Whenever I get disappointed or feel a bit sorry for myself, I just think all the boys that played are such great fellas, and some of them have had to wait their whole careers, and some of them have got it really early, but they all deserve it," Waterman said.

"It was great to be a part of it and hopefully we'll get another crack at one and I'll be able to play.

"If you told me at the start of the year I was going to play 16 games I would've been over the moon with that.

"I guess the way it ended (personally) was a bit underwhelming. Just in and out of the team in the latter stages of the year and just couldn't get back in.

"Looking back on it now, it was a good stepping stone to get some senior footy and looking to build from that next year."