West Coast midfielder Andrew Gaff is battling injury ahead of the clash against Sydney. Photo: Paul Kane Experienced West Coast follower Sharrod Wellingham makes a timely return to action for Saturday’s blockbuster against Sydney at the SCG, with star winger Andrew Gaff the latest Eagles midfield casualty.
West Coast is also expected to have champion on-baller Matt Priddis back after the Brownlow medallist missed last Friday’s 11-goal win over Richmond at home.
Priddis has shrugged off lingering effects of a thigh strain and confronts Swans ball-winning sensations Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.
Wellingham, 27, has finally overcome a knee injury that the 2010 Collingwood premiership midfielder copped in an intra-club practice match two months ago.
He confirmed full fitness with an impressive 70-minute outing sweeping across half-back for Eagles alignment outfit East Perth on Saturday.
Sydney is expected to bolster its on-ball unit with a return from popular former Eagles big man Callum Sinclair, who missed the Swans’ narrow road trip loss to Adelaide with a foot injury.
Gaff joins a mounting list of gut-running midfielders with calf troubles.
A decision on whether the reigning All-Australian winger plays against a powerful Swans on-ball brigade is expected from Eagles medical staff after Wednesday’s training behind closed doors.
Gaff, 23, is nursing a strain in his calf after another dazzling start to the season with an average of 32 disposals a match so far as an Eagles midfield prime mover.
The durable centre-liner has played a club-record 108 consecutive games since late into 2011 and is the longest unbroken sequence of outings of all players in the current competition.
He was the Eagles leading possession winner last season to earn his first club champion award with more 700 disposals at an average of just under 30 a game.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson confirmed Gaff is battling injury but expressed confidence his dashing left-footer will recover to play against the Swans.
“Gaffy got a bit of a knock, but I think he will be fine,” Simpson said on radio 6PR.
Simpson reported that his casualty ward wasn’t as large in the one-sided destruction of Richmond as straight out of a bruising derby win over Fremantle six days earlier.
“There are a few concerns there but nothing that I think will be as harsh as we had last week,” he said.
“Last week we had a lot of guys that just got to the line.”
Simpson all but declared Priddis would return as a major retaliatory weapon to counter a dangerous Swans midfield division.
“We’re planning for him to play,” Simpson said.
“He does hide injury pretty well and we’ll back him in.
“He will tell us by the end of training on Wednesday.”
With heavy congestion and urgency to win control from critical stoppages and contests around the ball, the big possession-winning Priddis is vital to Eagles’ hopes of overcoming a nasty SCG hoodoo.
West Coast has won at just three visits to the SCG with 13 defeats over 30 seasons in the national league, the last victory back in 1999. Follow WAtoday on Twitter
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