Andrew Gaff is backing West Coast pair Tom Hickey and Nathan Vardy to get the job done against powerful ruck duo Paddy Ryder and Scott Lycett in Friday night’s clash with Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium.
The Eagles head in with a healthy 3-1 record after escaping with a 13-point win over Fremantle last Saturday night.
Gaff said Lycett shouldn’t be booed by his former home crowd in his first visit to Perth since he crossed to the Power at the end of last season.
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“He’s a premiership player,” Gaff said. “Without him, who knows what would have happened. He had a great finals series playing really well against Max Gawn and obviously Brodie Grundy in a grand final.
“I think it worked as well as it could for Scotty leaving the club on that note and he’s made Port a much better team with him and Ryder being able to share the responsibility in the ruck.
“They are going to be tough to beat. They were disappointed with losing to Richmond on the weekend.
“It’s probably going to be a tough one for Scotty, playing here for so many years and knowing all the boys really well but we’re focused on hopefully getting the result again and a six-day turnaround and putting ourselves in a really good spot for this year.”
Gaff said there would likely be text messages flying around this week in the lead up.
“It will be interesting with him and Vards in the ruck, they were obviously competing for a spot in the ruck for most of the year when Nic (Naitanui) was playing,” he said.
“They worked so well together in September. No doubt going to be a bit awkward. When we are going through Port Adelaide’s team as we always do when you analyse an opposition, I guess it’s good insight because we know Scotty pretty well.”
Gaff said he had been pleased with Hickey and Vardy’s combination in 2019.
“Hick especially played really well against Collingwood,” he said. “The good thing about them is they’re able to go forward and hit the scoreboard.
“Hick kicked a couple of goals I reckon against GWS as well and Vards has been just really good in the ruck.
“We’ll do our research and study on Port but we’ve got great confidence in those two guys.”
Gaff said he had pulled up well from his second game back from suspension.
He admitted to a little sloppiness in his disposal but has largely had a seamless return after consecutive 35 possession games.
AGL will donate 300 meals to Foodbank WA for every kilometre Gaff runs during home games, with the star wingman getting the ball rolling with a 14km effort against Fremantle.