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Will Smith replace Masten? Veteran Eagle happy to help recruit

Josh Smith (centre) has replaced Christ Masten as West Coast's new time-trial king - AFL,Chris Masten,Josh Smith,West Coast Eagles
Josh Smith (centre) has replaced Christ Masten as West Coast's new time-trial king

WEST Coast wingman Chris Masten is taking a team-first attitude to getting hard-running recruit Josh Smith up to speed with his role, instead of worrying about the ex-Collingwood utility being a competitor for his position.

Masten joked he was stung "for about 10 minutes" after losing his long-held 2km time trial crown to Smith in January, but in reality the pair have formed a tight bond.

Smith, 25, has turned heads at the Eagles since arriving via the rookie draft, also winning the Yo-Yo test, and shapes as a potential round one debutant.

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Finding a spot in a premiership-winning line-up won't be easy, however rule changes to open up the game could work to the elite runners' advantage and Masten was confident they can both fit in the same line-up.

"I think we can both play in the same side. When you get to my age, I start to look at everyone as a competitor," said Masten, who turns 30 in May.

"We're all competing for jobs, but we're also pushing in the same direction and all play together and need to be tight.

"That's how we are here, we're good with that.

"We help each other out as much as we can. I'm just trying to help him learn my role and if he needs to learn other ones, the other boys will be doing the same thing.

"I think he (Smith) can play anywhere with the tank that he's got, he's pretty smart and he's got good skills."

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Masten, who is out of contract at the end of 2019, has battled some minor hamstring and adductor niggles this summer but is among the Eagles building towards the JLT Community Series and start of the season proper.

There were positive signs on Monday at Lathlain Park with almost the entire squad taking part in some form of training.

In a major boost, small forward Jamie Cripps was back jogging and walking laps after toe surgery last month, which is expected to sideline him for the season opener in Brisbane.

After being absent last week, star spearhead Josh Kennedy (shoulder) also ran laps alongside Cripps and draftee Xavier O'Neill, who was back on the track after knee trouble.

Young forward Jake Waterman (ankle) completed some skills work before breaking away for individual running, while half-back Liam Duggan kicked and marked without issue but was held back from the full workload after leaving training early last Wednesday.

Midfielder Jack Redden sent a scare through the camp last week after a knee complaint but took part in full training.

Meanwhile, stars Elliot Yeo (toe) and Jeremy McGovern (ribs) continued to take strides forward with the main group after off-season surgery, and Tom Barrass showed no ill-effects of his previous foot trouble. 

Nic Naitanui impressed with his agility, jumping over hurdles and twisting mid-air to land facing backwards in his return from a second knee reconstruction. 

Second-year midfielder Brayden Ainsworth (finger) was the only player not sighted on the track.

The Eagles had an umpire officiating some scrimmage work on Monday before training was closed to media, and will continue trialling the impact of rule changes ahead of an intraclub on February 22.

"The way the centre bounces are there's a lot of big gaps to make up, so hopefully that works with the running players," Masten said.

"You definitely notice it. You notice the ball moving a lot quicker from the centre bounce and a lot more scores are going to happen from that phase of the game. 

"It's something that will get figured out at some point, and teams will start to do things that will nullify whatever other teams are doing.  

"It just might take a few weeks to get your head around it."