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Only way is up for West Coast Eagles

By Justin Chadwick 10/03/2009 07:43:42 PM Comments (0)

West Coast coach John Worsfold is the first to admit the club's horror 2008 campaign simply wasn't good enough.

The Eagles, who just two years earlier claimed the premiership cup, crashed to a 15th-place finish with a mere four wins - the club's worst return in their 22-year history.

West Coast's cause wasn't helped by a crippling injury run, which sidelined Mitch Brown (knee) for the season and saw the likes of Adam Hunter (knee), Daniel Kerr (knee/suspension), Shannon Hurn (leg), Mark LeCras (groin), Chris Masten (groin), Matt Rosa (ankle), Beau Waters (elbow), Sam Butler (groin), Brett Jones (knee), Ashley Hansen (hamstring), Brent Staker (thumb) and Josh Kennedy (knee/shoulder) spend large chunks on the sidelines.

Oh, and don't forget the loss of superstars Chris Judd and Ben Cousins, which decimated the club's once blue-chip midfield.

But Worsfold is not interested in excuses, especially considering West Coast's average losing margin last year was a whopping 53 points.

"There's no way we would accept that that's good enough, even with the injuries we had," Worsfold says.

The Eagles made sweeping changes to their coaching department following last year's debacle.

Assistants Tony Micale and Darren Harris were shown the door, while former Melbourne coach Neale Daniher, ex-Magpies skipper Scott Burns and Phil Walsh were lured to the club.

And with West Coast's off-field woes now seemingly behind them, Worsfold - who guided the Eagles to finals football in each of his first six seasons - is confident the club has the right structures in place to vastly improve on last year's performance.

"Finals - that's our desire, that's what we want," Worsfold says.

"Whether we're good enough, we'll find out at the end of the year.

"All things being equal, we should aim and believe that we can get there.

"I think we've got the squad here that can work together to be a really strong force in the competition for the next few years."

Last year's injury crisis could even prove to be a blessing in disguise in '09.

Valuable game time was given to Ryan Davis, Brad Ebert, Ben McKinley, Beau Wilkes, Scott Selwood, Chris Masten, Tony Notte, Matt Spangher, Tim Houlihan and Eric Mackenzie, adding crucial depth to a squad still containing 15 premiership players.

Worsfold, entering the final year of his current contract, believes the club has entered a new era, much like when he first took the reins at the end of 2001.

"When I arrived at the club we had Glen Jakovich, Ashley McIntosh, Peter Matera and Drew Banfield, those sorts of guys," Worsfold says.

"Now, some of the guys stepping up into those positions like Kerry and Darren Glass, they were the babies when I arrived here.

"They were the kids sitting under those big names.

"Now they've got some great kids coming underneath them ... and it's not as though they are in their last two or three years, our senior guys still have five years ahead of them."

While Nick Naitanui, the exciting ruckman snared with pick No.2 in last year's national draft, will miss the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery, 18-year-old midfielder Tom Swift could prove to be the bolter from West Coast's new crop.

But it will be Kerr, Dean Cox, Hunter, Adam Selwood, Glass, Tyson Stenglein, David Wirrpanda and Quinten Lynch who will again be expected to lead from the front.

Butler and Brown are virtually new recruits after having their '08 campaigns ruined by injury, but the absence of Waters, who could miss more than half of the season due to a troublesome elbow injury, is a massive blow.

Worsfold says improvement is the aim for West Coast this year.

Anything more than that will be a bonus.

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