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Vaxxed Darling set to return to Eagles

Former North Melbourne star David King believes the impending return of Jack Darling to West Coast will be the goalkicking boost the club desperately needed.

Reports have emerged that Darling has finally opted to take the COVID-19 vaccine and will soon return to the club.

Darling has been banished since missing the AFL’s first-dose deadline on January 21, and there were fears his career could be over.

But with Darling having reportedly taken two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, it means he can return to the club once the paperwork goes through.

Darling’s return is a massive boost to a West Coast squad that has been riddled by injuries.

Elliot Yeo, Tom Cole, Liam Duggan, Dom Sheed, Oscar Allen, and Jamie Cripps will all miss the start of the season, while Brad Sheppard (concussion) was forced to retire early.

Defender Alex Witherden is suspended for round one, and Luke Shuey (hamstring) faces a race against time to be fit.

Although Darling is unlikely to feature in the round-one clash with Gold Coast on March 20 due to lack of match fitness, his return in the early rounds of the season will be a massive boost.

Darling booted 42.19 last year, and he looms as a crucial cog in attack alongside Josh Kennedy and Allen.

“(West Coast) kicked six and 10 goals in the previous two (pre-season) games, they needed someone down there to threaten,” King told SEN.

“Liam Ryan, Tim Kelly, Jamaine Jones, Willie Rioli, Jack Petruccelle – they were the goalkickers last week.

“Sometimes you just need a centre half-forward/full-forward type player to just be stamping three or four every second week, and that’s Jack.

“It’s huge news for (coach) Adam Simpson, they just needed some positive news.”

The recent uncertainty surrounding Darling led West Coast to sign former Docker Hugh Dixon to a rookie contract.

With Cole and first-round draftee Campbell Chesser placed on the inactive list due to long-term injuries, West Coast were also able to sign ruckman Luke Strnadica, former Richmond wingman Patrick Naish, and midfielder Tom Joyce on rookie deals.

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