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Eagles make 12 changes for western derby

West Coast have made 12 changes for Sunday’s western derby against Fremantle, with Nic Naitanui headlining the ins and Tim Kelly leading the outs.

The Eagles lost another five players to the league’s COVID-19 protocols this week, with skipper Luke Shuey, forward Willie Rioli, defender Liam Duggan, ruckman Bailey Williams, and Jack Williams all forced into isolation.

West Coast were dealt an additional blow when star midfielder Kelly was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

But it’s not all bad news, with West Coast welcoming back a host of stars from health and safety protocols.

Ruckman Naitanui, forward Josh Kennedy, and midfielder Jack Redden headline the players who have been given the green light to return after their stint in isolation.

Josh Rotham, Zac Langdon Jamaine Jones, Harry Edwards, Brady Hough and former Docker Hugh Dixon are also back after exiting the protocols.

Andrew Gaff (foot), Jackson Nelson (knee), and Connor West (hamstring) will return from injury in a further boost for the Eagles.

West Coast made an AFL/VFL record 14 changes leading into last week’s loss to North Melbourne, with the team featuring five WAFL top-up players and two listed debutants.

The Eagles won’t have to field any WAFL top-up players this time around in a significant sign that the club’s COVID crisis is easing somewhat.

The Dockers have also been affected by COVID-19, with star midfielder David Mundy ruled out and coach Justin Longmuir barred from attending after being deemed a close contact of someone from outside of the club.

With Longmuir out of action, former West Coast player and assistant Jaymie Graham will step into the hot seat.

Fremantle have lost ruckman Sean Darcy (ankle) and midfielder Caleb Serong (knee) among their five changes from last week’s disappointing 10-point loss to St Kilda.

Defender Griffin Logue was a surprise omission, with Joel Hamling and Bailey Banfield also dropped.

Brennan Cox returns from the health and safety protocols, with Matt Taberner back after overcoming a hamstring injury.

Neil Erasmus will make his AFL debut, last week’s sub Nathan O’Driscoll has been named in the 22, and Brandon Walker earned a recall.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson believes the COVID chaos engulfing his club will end up becoming a moment of strength.

“We’ve now got a stronger sense of belonging among all our players because they’ve all had to step up,” Simpson said.

“We’re not relying on 25 players at the moment, we’re relying on 42 plus the train-ons.

“Hand on heart I can honestly say we’ve grown as a club.

“Does that mean we win? Not at the moment, but I’m hoping in the long run that we look back on this experience as a real good opportunity rather than a crisis or something we found hard to manage.

“But absolutely we still want to win.”

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