West Coast’s midfield depth was tested in the weekend’s 16-point loss to GWS but young Eagle Xavier O’Neill may be the answer to helping cover for the side’s injured stars.
The Giants outran the Eagles in the fourth quarter, the visitors missing powerhouse midfielders Luke Shuey (hamstring), Elliot Yeo (groin) and Liam Duggan (knee) all through injury.
On the latest episode of The Duff and Quarters Podcast, chief footy writer at The West Australian Mark Duffield believes 20-year-old O’Neill could provide immediate relief if given consistent opportunity in the Eagles’ 22.
“West Coast need to continue going with Xavier O’Neill,” Duffield said.
“O’Neill when he plays is probably going to be a 10-15 touch midfielder but to me let him play for four weeks and see if 10-15 becomes 15-23.”
The Victorian has managed nine games, four in 2021, after being drafted by the club with the 28th pick in the 2018 draft.
Multiple recent draftees like Brayden Ainsworth (14 games in four seasons), Zane Trew (zero games, first year player) and Hamish Brayshaw (2017 draftee, one game, delisted) have failed to solidify a spot across the middle for the Eagles, but Duffield thinks O’Neill has the most upside for 2021.
“Ainsworth is a ripping person, who gives you everything that he’s got, but I don’t think everything he’s got is enough,” he continued.
“I think Zane Trew will be a good player, but he’s a first year player. West Coast tend to do a slow development with their players so if Zane Trew plays this year it will only be a small sample size.
“Xavier O’Neill is the one for me, I think they need to suck it up and put O’Neill in and leave him in. They need to start finding development from underneath.”