West Coast coach Adam Simpson has praised the resilience of Will Schofield after handing the premiership defender another crack in the senior side.
Schofield starred in last year’s grand final triumph over Collingwood, winning a number of crucial one-on-one battles against the dangerous Jordan De Goey.
Brad Sheppard’s hamstring tear opened the door for Schofield late last season, and the veteran has again been forced to rely on injuries this year in order to get game time.
Schofield has been recalled for Saturday’s clash with North Melbourne at Optus Stadium after Shannon Hurn failed to recover from a minor calf strain.
The recall is likely to last only one game given Hurn is set to return next week, but Simpson was full of praise for Schofield’s dedication to the team.
“I think it’s tough to get to that stage in your career and your spot’s not locked away,” Simpson said.
“He’s just been so resilient for us. It’s a club-first attitude that he’s got, and he’s ready to go when called upon.
“What more can you ask from a player like that?
“He stood up last year late in the season when ‘Shep’ went down. He’s playing his role for the club and we admire him for it.”
Simpson said Hurn was close to playing this week, but he didn’t want to risk the veteran.
North Melbourne made three changes from the side that lost to Brisbane by 12 points.
Defender Scott Thompson was ruled out after requiring surgery on a ruptured testicle, while Kayne Turner (rested), and Nathan Hrovat (axed) also go out of the side.
Taylor Garner, Luke Davies-Uniacke, and Paul Ahern were called up.
West Coast premiership big man Nathan Vardy will return from a knee injury in the WAFL on Saturday, but he needs to prove his worth as a forward if he is to earn a call-up.
Nic Naitanui’s ankle injury means Tom Hickey is now the No.1 ruckman in the senior side.
Oscar Allen is being used as a pinch-hitting back-up, but Simpson is keen to use Vardy in that role if the former Cat can also pull his weight up forward.
“We haven’t seen Vards at his best this year,” Simpson said of Vardy, who was out of form before he got injured in the WAFL late last month.
“I think at his best he’s going to be a great back-up for Hickey as a forward-ruck. But we have to get him going. He’ll play WAFL this week, and we’ll see how he goes up forward.”
West Coast (12-5) sit in third spot, while North Melbourne (7-10) need to win to keep their faint finals hopes alive.