Off season recruit, and former West Coast Eagle/Brisbane Lion - Brent Staker is a big "in" for the Western Magpies when they travel to the Gold Coast to play the 2015 Premiers Labrador. Staker comes into the Magpie side for his first match after suffering a hamstring injury in the pre-season.
Both the Pies and Labrador are not where they expected to be at this stage of the season so this game is another one in the category of a "must win match".
Staker adds not only skill but experience to the Pies side and will demand attention from the opposition hopefully freeing up another star Magpie eslewhere. Staker has been slotted to play at centre half back but expect him to spend some time up forward during the game.
Also into the side are full forward Alex Dickfos who has recovered from a viral illness and was asked to play Reserves last week after missing 2 weeks of training due to his illness. That said Dickfos has not reached the heights of last year and needs to get back to his bullocking and goal kicking best to give the Pies the lift they need up forward.
Also into the side is Sam Copland who returns from Queensland Under 18 dutties and will give the Pies forward line a lift.
On the debit side the Pies lose key defender Chris Hunt and strong midfielder Drew Mitchell, both with concussion after suffering head knocks last match, and Jadan Morton goes back to the Reserves.
The Pies were smashed in the outside run and on transition last week and as a result were second to the ball and looked reactive. This can be rectified with increased workload both with and without the football and coach Glenn Humphrey has emphasised the importance of winning the midfield battles. Nick Barling looked to be getting back to form in the ruck with some beautiful taps after half time and he will need to continue this form to give the Pies first use of the football.
Brady Allen was one player to hold his head high last week and while he was good he always looks like he can rip a game apart at any time but has yet to do so. This Saturday may be just the match where he can lift even further and become the match-winning dominant player he threatens to be.
With Mitchell out, the Pies have moved Lachie Woods back into the midfield mix and added Mitch Stallard as well to give some outside pace.
Luke Scott to CHF is a good move and with Val Pope and Jack Goodall either side of him the Pies forward power looks potent but only if given good delivery.
The Pies have been stung hard by losses in the past two matches and know their season hangs in the balance so will be fired up for a big game against a Tigers side which will be equally desperate.
For two sides struggling compared to pre-season predictions this match is a big one and still deserves "Match of the Day" status.
Western Magpies v Labrador at Labrador on Saturday, May 14th at 2.00 pm
B: Luke MitchellRhys BridgeRichard Wenham
HB: Matt DavisBrent Staker Tim McEvoy
C: Brady Allen Callum Carseldine (Co-Capt.) Aaron Maricic (R)
HF: Jack Goodall (R) Luke ScottVal Pope
F: Matt Sondergeld (R) Alex DickfosSam Copland
Rucks: Dom Beer, Ben Jaenke-Cain
Rover: Gareth Crawford
I/C Nick Barling, Mitchell Stallard, Lachlan Woods (Co-Capt), David Lewis