Alec Waterman will make a triumphant return to Perth after being retained by Essendon for Saturday night’s clash with West Coast, but his homecoming will be bittersweet after the Eagles dropped his brother Jake for the first time this season.
The brothers could still cross paths on the field, with Jake Waterman a chance to be chosen as the substitute for West Coast after being named as an emergency.
Alec Waterman survived the cut for the Bombers and will play his fifth game, with young forward Harry Jones left out to make way for Jake Stringer’s earlier than expected return from a hamstring injury.
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Stringer proved his fitness today as Essendon had their main training session at Optus Stadium, having been forced to fly to Perth two days early.
Eldest brother Alec, 24, was drafted by the Eagles in 2014 before being de-listed two years later after he was prevented from playing by fatigue-related illnesses that kept him all-but bedridden for 18 months.
His coach Ben Rutten described his return to his hometown as an AFL player as “huge”, after he left Claremont last summer for a train-on invitation before winning a rookie contract.
“Alec himself, when we initially picked him up, he probably thought he was maybe 12 months ahead of where he’d hoped,” Rutten said.
“But he’s got an interesting journey and his own story in itself. You can tell that he just values and appreciates every moment he’s got at AFL level.
“He’s really putting his best foot forward and we really like what he can do for us.”
While diminished aerobic capacity following his heath battle prompted Alec to move from the midfield into the forward-line, Rutten said the Bombers were open-minded about where they could use the stocky left-footer.
“Certainly this year, his focus has been about building his conditioning base and rounding out his game a little bit more,” he said.
“He and we don’t want to pigeon-hole him as a deep forward. We think he’s got a bigger skill set than that and he’s spent some time in the VFL broadening that, playing a little bit more through the midfield, playing as a higher half-forward.
“We know what he can do as a deep, crafty forward but we and he think he’s got more to offer so we’re looking to continually expand his roles.”
Jake, who has played 46 games for West Coast, said his brother was an inspiration who had blazed a path for his own entry into the AFL.
“When he was going through all the State programs, I was always watching closely,” Jake said.
“I learnt a lot of how to deal with that part of my life from him and it’s probably not taken for granted, because he got it all taken away from him pretty quickly.
“But to his credit he found his way back and he is where he deserves to be.”