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Great mates to debut, gun Eagles trio back as Optus hosts rare double-header

Vice-captain Josh Kennedy is back and will lead the team in Luke Shuey’s absence, while running half-back Liam Duggan and versatile tall Oscar Allen are confirmed starters, coach Adam Simpson said.

Simpson also confirmed a two-year coaching extension to 2024 that ended fanciful talk he could replace Nathan Buckley at Collingwood.

The influx of senior players could extend further when the club refines its team on Friday afternoon, with wingman Jarrod Brander and back-ruckman Nathan Vardy named on an extended eight-man interchange that also includes last week’s medical sub Jamaine Jones, Luke Edwards, forwards Jake Waterman and Zac Langdon, midfielder Xavier O’Neill and defender Luke Foley.

All-Australian defender Brad Sheppard was ruled out due to AFL concussion protocols and emerging ruck-forward Bailey Williams was not considered because of a hamstring strain.

Richmond added Kane Lambert, tall defender Ben Miller, Will Martyn, and Hugo Ralphsmith to its squad for the 5.20pm clash while youngster Riley Collier-Dawkins was omitted but Dion Prestia named, despite being subbed out for Daniel Rioli in last Saturday’s 39-point win with hamstring tightness.

At Fremantle the mood was buoyant ahead of the clash despite the absence of captain Nat Fyfe (shoulder), Brennan Cox (hamstring) and Griffin Logue (concussion).

Out-of-favour midfielder Connor Blakely has been dropped and could struggle to play again in purple, while Nathan Wilson was suspended for one match for an unsavoury hit to the groin of young Dog Cody Weightman last Sunday.

Matt Rowell after suffering a partial PCL tear at Optus Stadium in round one.

Matt Rowell after suffering a partial PCL tear at Optus Stadium in round one.Credit:Getty Images

Not only will great mates Western and Walker debut but hopes will be high for Pearce, who appears ready for his 55th AFL game .

Walker, 18, had a mixed start to the season that saw him demoted to Peel’s reserves after a serious foot injury and then a concussion setback. He has shown pace and skill in his four WAFL games for the Thunder off half back and his imposing frame should hold well at AFL level.

Walker admitted he thought his good mate Western was going to get a call-up.

“Joel and I have been playing footy since about year 6. It’s been a while playing together and to debut on the same day, it’s really cool,” he said.

“I’m just so keen and I’m shaking right now.”

Fremantle v Gold Coast
(Optus Stadium, Saturday 2.15pm)

FREMANTLE
B: R Conca A Pearce T Duman
HB: J Aish L Ryan D Tucker
C: B Acres D Mundy A Brayshaw
HF: T Colyer R Lobb M Crowden
F: L Schultz J Treacy L Henry
FOLL: S Darcy A Cerra M Walters
I/C: B Bewley C Serong J Western B Walker
EMG: C Blakely T Watson L Meek S Giro
IN: R Conca A Pearce B Bewley J Western B Walker
OUT: C Blakely (omitted) N Wilson (suspension) G Logue B Cox N Fyfe (all injured) T Watson (medical sub)

GOLD COAST
B: W Powell S Collins S Lemmens
HB: J Lukosius C Ballard J Bowes
C: B Ellis M Rowell H Greenwood
HF: D Swallow C Burgess N Holman
F: I Rankine B King A Sexton
FOLL: Z Smith L Weller T Miller
I/C: N Anderson S Flanders O Markov M Rosas
EMG: J Corbett J Farrar C Graham J Sharp
IN: J Bowes M Rowell
OUT: J Farrar R Atkins (both omitted) J Corbett (medical-sub)

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