West Coast defender Liam Duggan has heaped praise on mid-season recruit Jai Culley, who won over plenty of admirers in his first game in front of the Eagles’ faithful at Optus Stadium.
The 19-year-old stuck close to Saints captain Jack Steele early before ditching the shackles to be among the Eagles’ best in just his second game at the top level.
Culley had 19 disposals, seven tackles and five score involvements, topped off with the first goal of his career with a classy set shot late in the contest.
“He’s been great since arriving at the club,” Duggan told The West Australian.
“He’s been putting in the work which is really noticeable and I think it shows on game day.
“He’s only played a handful of games against blokes, so it’s pretty impressive seeing him go about it and he got some reward with his first goal.
“Certainly, we like what we see with Jai.”
Duggan, who played an important intercepting role in defence with 24 disposals and 10 marks, also commended the attitude of skipper Luke Shuey, who limped his way to 19 touches.
After managing just three disposals in the first half, the 32-year-old lifted for in the third and final quarters despite copping heavy hits left and right as the Saints marched to victory.
“The desperation that he shows each week is amazing,” Duggan said. “He’s not getting any younger either but he’s still throwing himself at the contest.
“As a captain, you can really get behind that and follow. It’s impressive from Boots and inspirational to follow him.
“He’s got a few cuts and bruises on his face but it’s all battle scars that’ll be shown off in a couple of years.”
The Eagles will now travel to Metricon Stadium to face a hungry and much-improved Gold Coast outfit on Sunday.
The sides last met in round one this year, where the Suns claimed a 27-point victory.
“It’s a big road trip to the Gold Coast, “ Duggan said. “We’ve had some tight battles with the Suns in the past.
“They’re obviously having quite a good year and in some form as well, so it’ll be another hot contest for us.”