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Eagles 'de-load' star forward in bid for round-one fitness

Highlights: West Coast v Collingwood The Eagles and Magpies clash in the grand final

WEST Coast is taking a cautious approach with star spearhead Josh Kennedy's battle-scarred body but coach Adam Simpson hopes the dual Coleman medallist will be ready for a season-opening trip to Brisbane.

Kennedy was a conspicuous absentee from training last week, after a heavy running workload this summer coming back from a shoulder operation.

The 31-year-old jogged and walked laps alongside small forward Jamie Cripps – who will miss the early rounds after toe surgery – at Lathlain Park on Monday and appears in doubt for the JLT Community Series after scaling back his workload.

"We just had a bit of a de-load on JK as he went really hard pre-Christmas and in January, so we'll build him back up and get him up for round one, hopefully," Simpson said.

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"We've just got to be patient with his body and understand he's not 24 anymore.

"If he pulls up a bit sore we pull him back."

Simpson will be sweating on Kennedy's fitness, with the Eagles already set to take an inexperienced forward line into 2019 after Mark LeCras' retirement and with Cripps effectively only just starting his pre-season.

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Almost the entire West Coast squad was on the track on Monday, however Elliot Yeo (toe), Jeremy McGovern (ribs), Tom Barrass (foot), Daniel Venables (knee) and Jake Waterman (ankle) are among those on the comeback from injuries.

"I could be happier. There's a few guys who are just coming back into training now," Simpson said.

We've got a group of around 30 players who have done everything and then there's a group who are just trying to catch up.

"That comes with going deep into the finals. Round one is still on target for most of our players, but there's a few guys that are touch and go."

Half-back Liam Duggan has also had his workload managed recently, but Simpson played down concerns over the 22-year-old.

"It's probably the time of year when everyone who has done a fair whack of pre-season probably just needs a break every now and then, so Duggo falls into that as well," Simpson said.

"A few niggles pop up, pull them back for a week and then get them back into it. He did our match sim yesterday, so he's fine."

 

The Eagles overcame the loss of Andrew Gaff (suspension), Nic Naitanui (ACL) and Brad Sheppard (hamstring) during their late-season charge to last year's flag and Simpson had faith in the depth of his list. 

Naitanui won't be back until mid-season, while Gaff won't be available until round three.

The star wingman will appear in the realestate.com.au AFLX tournament, and could play both JLT matches, including his first meeting with Fremantle since his season-ending hit on Andrew Brayshaw in Mandurah on March 10.

"I'm sure there's going to be some hype around it. We'll obviously help Andrew through dealing with any of those pressures, but it's been such a long time," Simpson said.

"I think we just want to get him out there and play some footy."

The Eagles took some time out from the pre-season grind at Floreat Beach on Tuesday morning, and Simpson had reason to smile when his dog Stevie took out the annual 'Stevie Simpson Cup' raced between players and coaches' pooches.

"He's never won Stevie, I just named the race after him, so now he can wear it with pride," Simpson said.