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Eagles' milestone man due to make a welcome return

Captains feel the heat, turf trouble, Swan's setback Nat Edwards and Mitch Cleary with all the latest news

WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson is backing star spearhead Josh Kennedy to return from foot soreness in time for Saturday night's clash with Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium.

Kennedy is due to play his 200th club game for the Eagles in a triple treat of milestones, with skipper Shannon Hurn and wingman Chris Masten making their 250th and 200th appearances respectively. 

The dual Coleman medallist would provide a major boost to an inexperienced attack, which managed only eight majors in a season-opening 44-point loss to Brisbane at the Gabba.

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Premiership-winning small forward Jamie Cripps (toe) and Willie Rioli (foot), who contributed 66 goals combined last season, were also missing. 

Asked if Kennedy would be back to face the Giants, Simpson simply replied "Yes", before cautioning the Eagles couldn't rely on their gun forward to solve their problems.

"We've always had a squad mentality and the ability to spread the load is really important for us," Simpson told Channel Seven.

 

"We didn't get it done on the weekend, but we also got the chance to expose some of our younger players up forward and give them some really good experience.

"We'd like to think we don't have to rely on Josh, but it will be good when he's back in the side."

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Kennedy's return is likely to squeeze second-gamer Jarrod Brander out of the line-up, while livewire Liam Ryan is free to play after copping a fine for a jumper punch on Darcy Gardiner.

Ryan reacted after Gardiner pushed him with his right knee while he was on the ground, but Simpson declared the exciting forward had to "be better" than retaliating.

However, the coach leapt to Ryan's defence after he was targeted by racist comments on Instagram.

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"Liam's OK. Unfortunately, it's not an isolated incident across the AFL and the last month or so it's escalated, and quite frankly we've had enough," Simpson said.

"It's just really disappointing we're still putting up with this in 2019."

The Eagles will raise their premiership flag at Optus Stadium on Saturday night and need to bounce back after being smashed by a hungrier Lions outfit, despite leading by 27 points at the first change.

"Really disappointing, especially after the start we had," Simpson said.

"We knew Brisbane's strengths and what they were going to bring and we didn't handle the pressure, we didn't handle the conditions and we got what we deserved in the end."