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Time to make your mark, Nathan: Simmo backs out-of-form ruck

Rioli's dreamtime, million-dollar Docker, Demon drama Nat Edwards with the latest footy news

WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson is backing Nathan Vardy to rediscover last year's outstanding form and will rely on the big man in the ruck for Saturday's top-eight shaping clash against Adelaide. 

With Tom Hickey (ankle) sidelined again, Vardy looms as the No.1 ruckman for the next two games unless the Eagles call up mature draftee Keegan Brooksby. 

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After playing an important role late last year after Nic Naitanui went down, Vardy has battled to have an impact this year and is averaging six disposals and 1.5 marks from eight games.

The former Cats big man has also failed to score, after kicking 7.4 from 10 matches in 2018.

With Naitanui requiring a sidekick when he returns from his second ACL reconstruction, the heat is on Vardy to grab his chance while Hickey is out of the side.

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"I don't think he's playing at his best at the moment, I think he'd be the first to admit that," Simpson said.

"He's probably just missing out on a couple of opportunities to take a few contested marks.

"He was probably good for one or two a game and a couple of shots, and we just haven't seen that this year.

"I've got a little bit of patience, but having said that nothing is locked in for him either."

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Naitanui is back to training without restrictions, but Simpson hosed down speculation he could return, either at AFL or WAFL level, before the round 13 bye.

"We're really happy with the way he's going and the fact he's knocking on the door is great, that's probably the last tick-off from us for him," he said.

"Now it's just getting that extra couple of weeks of training up.

"It's not really his decision, it doesn't matter what he wants. You've got to back the docs in." 

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Simpson will be forced into three changes for the Crows clash, with Lewis Jetta (suspension) and Daniel Venables – who will miss multiple weeks with concussion – joining Hickey on the sidelines.

Veteran backman Will Schofield is expected to return from soreness, while Josh Rotham and Jackson Nelson could be vying for Jetta's half-back spot.

Brendon Ah Chee, Jake Waterman and possible debutant Jarrod Cameron – the brother of former Crows forward Charlie – are also in the mix.

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The Eagles (6-3) have the opportunity to set their season up at Adelaide Oval, which has been a happy hunting ground.

West Coast is 2-2 against the Crows at the venue, and 7-2 overall.

Simpson has been pleased with his side's improved contested work across an unconvincing three-game winning streak, but the next step is supplying a hungry forward line after ranking 17th for inside 50s.

"It's probably the biggest thing. We're, not on track, but we're back in the mix with the contest," he said.  

"I think our guys have been pretty tough the last few weeks, they've stuck their head over the ball.

"When you watch the game I think we're up for the fight, and that was probably what was lacking three or four weeks ago."

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