Controversial West Coast recruit Drew Petrie has been confirmed to make his debut against his old club North Melbourne in Sunday’s season opener at Etihad Stadium.
Nanjing Night Net

Eagles coach Adam Simpson has disclosed the 34-year-old rookie import will play after a highly impressive summer training campaign with crucial ruck support performances in practice games this month.

Simpson announced on his regular Seven News interview on Monday night the experienced Petrie will start on Sunday.

“We will go with Drew. He will play his first game for the club on the weekend,” he said.

The highly popular former Roos big man has been earmarked all summer to make a debut against his old outfit as West Coast plans for a flying start to the away engagements this season.

He will share ruck duties with another import as injury-plagued former Geelong big man Nathan Vardy also makes his Eagles debut after crossing last October in a trade deal from the Cats.

Petrie and Vardy team with another stunning Eagles recruitment coup from last season as champion midfielder and heavily decorated Hawthorn superstar on-baller Sam Mitchell takes his Eagles inauguration on Sunday.

West Coast look capable of beating the Roos to launch the new premiership season and celebrate Petrie’s introduction.

Petrie was a shock rookie draft selection to West Coast last November after almost two decades and 316 games at North before an unceremonious departure along with Roos legend Brent Harvey and tough defender Michael Firrito in an uncompromising cull of aged stars.

Petrie will be elevated onto the senior Eagles playing list ahead of selection confirmation later this week as replacement to lead ruck duo Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett who have long-term injuries.

Naitanui is out for the 2017 season as he recovers from a full knee reconstruction while Lycett faces a 12-week rehabilitation from a badly dislocated left shoulder.

Lycett was playing just his first practice match after a four-month recovery from knee surgery when he damaged his shoulder making a tackle playing with affiliate WAFL outfit East Perth.

Another back-up ruck candidate Jon Giles has battled on-going knee soreness as well as a broken thumb in summer training.

“It’s been fortunate for us with Scott coming back from his knee and hurting his shoulder and then Jonathan Giles hurting his thumb during the pre-season and it’s just not quite ready yet,” Simpson added.

The Eagles boss floated prospects to add an extra tall defender depending on North’s forward troops.

Rising intercept back liner Tom Barrass was a surprise omission from an Eagles defensive battery for the final pre-season game against Melbourne in Perth.

Simpson instead opted for resumption of a successful defensive structure with just two tall key backmen surrounded by a battery of smaller, running defenders that proved efficient in 2015 when West Coast bucked the odds and made a grand final, before copping a belting from a powerhouse Hawks unit.

Barrass, 21, as well as experienced defensive experts Will Schofield and Sam Butler are in for selection consideration with at least one of them tipped to travel with the squad ahead of a final make-up of the starting line-up on Sunday.

“It’s a good problem to have with our defenders in particular,” Simpson said.

“North traditionally play pretty tall up forward so we need to look at that and see how we handle match committee and see what advantages there are in playing small or tall.”

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