West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern says the playing group won’t leave Jack Darling in the lurch despite the forward’s failure to meet the AFL’s vaccine deadline.
Darling has been unable to train with the club since January 21, but there’s hope he will opt for the Novavax vaccine that is set to be rolled out in Australia on February 21.
Even if Darling is double-jabbed by mid-March, he’s unlikely to be ready for the start of the AFL season given his period away from the club and its resources.
A shirtless Darling was pictured training by himself over the weekend, and McGovern would love to have the 29-year-old back in the side.
“I saw him in the paper yesterday and he looked like he is going really well, he has got a good rig,” McGovern said with a smile.
“The boys definitely aren’t leaving him in the lurch.
“We just check in and see how he is going. It is more just support mentally to make sure he is going all right.”
McGovern said Darling’s absence would leave a big hole up forward.
But he is backing the likes of Oscar Allen, Bailey Williams, Jake Waterman and train-on player Tyler Keitel to help fill the void alongside veteran forward Josh Kennedy.
Allen in particular looms as a key figure for the Eagles, with the 22-year-old well placed to become the club’s key target given Kennedy’s career is winding down.
“I think Oscar has been very patient,” McGovern said.
“As a young forward coming in you want that ball kicked to you every time.
“He has done his apprenticeship you could say behind JK and JD and I think it has helped his game.
“I think Oscar is more than ready to take that role.
“Seeing him train at the moment, he has been having a massive pre-season and he is the type of guy who relishes that stuff. It will be exciting to see.”
West Coast missed the finals last year for the first time since 2014 and it didn’t sit well with the player group.
“Not playing finals last year hurts. We weren’t happy,” McGovern said.
“It does feel a little bit different with the boys.
“There’s a little bit more anger. A little bit more burn in the belly to try to push and do everything we can to give us the best opportunity.”