West Coast recruit Xavier Ellis admits he was glad former coach John Worsfold wasn’t around to challenge him to a race when he arrived for the AFL club’s pre-season training.
Ellis struggled to maintain his elite fitness levels during his last three years at Hawthorn, with a myriad of foot, calf and knee injuries restricting him to just 16 games over that period.
The 2008 premiership midfielder secured a trade to West Coast at the end of last year, but he knew he was starting way behind others at the start of pre-season.
“I didn’t come over in peak condition. I didn’t play much footy for a couple of years, so I was a bit overweight, sloppy and a bit unfit,” Ellis said.
“I remember Murray Newman losing a 2km (time trial) to John Worsfold (in 2012). He would have had me too.
“But I’m fit now. The fitness staff and doctors have been great.”
If Ellis was a superstitious person, the injury-prone midfielder would have been a tad worried when he first arrived in Perth.
“I moved all my stuff over. Most of it broke on the train,” he said with a laugh.
But Ellis’ time in the west has been smooth so far.
Thee 26-year-old’s sparkling pre-season form has guaranteed him a spot for Sunday’s clash with the Western Bulldogs at Patersons Stadium.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui is also set to play after overcoming a long-term groin injury, with Beau Waters (shoulder) the only big name Eagle to miss the start of the season.
Dom Sheed, the No.11 pick from last year’s national draft, is a strong chance to play after an impressive pre-season.
New Eagles coach Adam Simpson spent four years as an assistant at Hawthorn, and Ellis said the former North Melbourne skipper had already won the respect of the players.
“He’s a real players’ coach,” Ellis said.
“He’s open to ideas. He loves the boys playing to their strengths and he keeps things simple for us.
“He hasn’t dropped too many vicious sprays yet, so we’ve got that to look forward to.”