West Coast Preseason: Why Eagles are counting on Darling

When Jack Darling injured his ankle, many thought his hopes of a round were gone. He could prove them wrong, writes MARK DUFFIELD.

When Eagles coach Adam Simpson said Jack Darling was a chance to play against North Melbourne in round one days after suffering an ankle injury, we wondered if he was on loan.

Darling’s left ankle was pinched under him in a match with Jeremy McGovern in a match simulation a month ago. Two scans were required to rule out the need for surgery.

But we kept hearing that Darling was a fast healer.

And Darling was out on track Monday running strong and pushing for round one selection.

There’s still some water to go under the bridge, but his old scoring partner Josh Kennedy thinks we shouldn’t write him off.

The quick healer’s description, Kennedy says, refers to Darling’s powerful and well-prepared physique, meaning the surrounding muscles and tendons can absorb some of the effects of traumatic injury and “soften the blow.”

“He was very persistent. He’s doing the right things in terms of his overall injury management. If he raised his hand to play, I have no doubt they would play him,” Kennedy told SEN.

“The muscle groups around the injury site can cushion the blow a bit. He’s always been in a state where he doesn’t do as much damage as some guys because he’s working on his body. In terms of him being a fast healer, the way his body is built probably softens the blow a bit.”

In 12 completed seasons, Darling has officiated 257 AFL games at an average of 21.42 per season. He has only failed to reach at least 21 games in a season twice, and one of those seasons was the Covid-19-shortened 2020 season, when the Eagles played 18 games and Darling played all of them.

Kennedy believes Darling’s flawless pre-season up to his training injury in the second week of February means he won’t be lacking in fitness.

“It obviously wasn’t as bad as first thought,” Kennedy said. “Jack will do everything in his power to get up for round one. He’s been walking again and doing some straight forward stuff, which is very positive.

“He never loses too much of his pre-season baseline so that won’t be a problem for Jack. It’s just going to get more into matchplay. If he’s able to make a change of direction this week and get into some practice and some competition late this week, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to play round one, which would be great .

“The most important thing is the change of direction. If he can change direction and his ankle doesn’t feel a little off, I’m sure he’ll raise his hand. Injury wise he probably has enough (work) in him by this point to be able to play a game.

With Kennedy’s retirement, Oscar Allen finding his way as a forward after a season break and serious questions over ruck availability, Darling’s presence as a key attacking target against North Melbourne would be crucial

The Eagles are still unsure of their ruck combination and with neither Nic Naitanui nor Bailey Williams playing Adelaide last Friday, the task of delivering the second big goal in attack fell to hybrid forward Jake Waterman and to utility player Josh Rotham, who finished the game with a broken arm and will not play in round one either.

It was hard to tell how they ran because the ball didn’t get there very often in a 59-point loss, but Darling, the third-biggest scorer in Eagles club history, would be welcome against the Roos.

Mark Duffield

Mark DuffieldStaff writer

Mark Duffield has a career in journalism spanning more than 40 years, having joined the South West Times in 1982. As senior AFL writer at The West Australian, he was a five-time winner of the Geoff Christian Award for Outstanding AFL Reporting in WA. He received MEAA’s 2022 Clarion Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in WA. He also spent five years covering AFL football in Melbourne as a football writer and was Melbourne Bureau chief of The West Australian in 1995.

https://www.codesports.com.au/afl/west-coast/west-coast-eagles-veteran-jack-darling-is-relying-on-on-fast-healing-faith-of-coaching-staff-ahead-of-round-one/news-story/d1a63d951f0e1fdd4dbd2c4c0b5f5c19?nk=1dad3eb899e85726f970e58dd1d238ab-1678183632 West Coast Preseason: Why Eagles are counting on Darling

Ryan Sederquist

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