West Coast midfielder Tim Kelly has leapt to the defence of Elliot Yeo after the on-baller’s fitness levels were questioned by Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes.
Yeo was subbed out in the second quarter of Saturday’s 84-point loss to Port Adelaide with concussion, having tallied just four disposals up until that point.
The 28-year-old is still building back to full fitness and form after being ravaged by injuries in recent years.
Yeo missed the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 with osteitis pubis before suffering a serious calf tear in a pre-season game this year that ruled him out of the first month of the season.
Cornes didn’t mince his words when he took aim at the two-time All-Australian on Footy Classified on Monday night.
“(He is) clearly out of shape and his standards have slipped at West Coast and I think across the board,” Cornes said.
“He shouldn’t be playing if he presents like that and I think it is one of the reasons that West Coast are in the position they are in.
“He has played 24 games in the last three years, he is always injured, he has to get fitter.
“I don’t know but that could be through fault of his own.”
Kelly felt the criticism was unfair.
“I think he’s been a bit harsh done by there. I think you need to cut Yeo some slack,” Kelly said on Tuesday.
“He’s someone who has just had a horrible run, injury after injury. This is a tough game we play and you need continuity.
“We look so much better as a midfield unit with him in it. He’s a headache for the opposition.”
Yeo (concussion) will miss Friday night’s clash with Richmond in Perth, but defender Jeremy McGovern (COVID protocols) and midfielder Andrew Gaff (ankle) could return.
Richmond (2-4) could welcome back star midfielder Dustin Martin, who was granted personal leave after featuring in the round-one loss to Carlton.
The Eagles (1-5) copped an embarrassing 63-point loss to Sydney when they hosted Friday night football a fortnight ago.
The scoreboard read 56-0 in the second quarter before West Coast finally registered a score.
“Obviously disappointing what we dished up a couple of weeks ago on a Friday night timeslot; the whole country is watching, home crowd, all of that,” Kelly said.
“It didn’t work out for us a couple of weeks ago but we get the chance to fix that.”
Friday night’s match can feature a 100 per cent capacity crowd after the WA government announced it would remove a host of COVID-19 public health measures from Thursday midnight.