Liam Duggan stopped short of saying his first proper midfield hit-out of the pre-season was a wake-up call.
The West Coast premiership defender turned midfielder locked horns with a quality Fremantle on-ball brigade which included dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe and Rising Star winner Caleb Serong in Saturday’s loss at Mineral Resources Park.
The Eagles were missing a host of first-choice players with Nic Naitanui (hamstring), Tim Kelly (thumb) and Elliot Yeo (groin) sidelined, while captain Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff didn’t play the whole match.
Duggan felt it was a learning experience, both personally and as a team, as he looks to become a permanent fixture in the engine room.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with the midfielders and it was my first opportunity to come up against an opposition that’s not ourselves,” Duggan said.
“I wouldn’t say it was a wake-up call to me but it definitely showed the quality of the players you’re going up against in the midfield and there’s a lot of onus on the midfield to get the job done.”
Duggan called for an improvement heading into Sunday’s re-match against the Dockers at Optus Stadium in front of a potential 35,000 fans after what he described as a “rusty” performance.
It will be the Eagles’ last scratch match before the season proper gets underway at home to Gold Coast on March 21.
Kelly looks the most likely to come into the side, with Naitanui in doubt and Yeo still a long way off.
“We’d like to improve for a start,” Duggan said.
“We were a little bit rusty on the weekend and we’re the first to own up to that.
“We were really impressed with how Freo held themselves at the weekend, they played a great brand of footy and for us it’s back down to basics.
“We were beaten in most facets of the game and we need to win around the footy and I think that’s what our main focus will be this week.
“The quality of their clearances is what was hurting us so we need to be able to nullify that and in turn win a bit of our own footy and send it down to our forwards.”
The 24-year-old’s natural defensive instincts were on show against the Dockers, but he wasn’t expecting to be assigned any tagging roles just yet.
“I think that’s more of just a natural way I play through the midfield,” Duggan said.
“Obviously being a defender for the last four years, if that can be a strength of mine that I can bring to the midfield then so be it.
“I don’t sort of go out there to purposely to do it but the way it seems to go is I run a few defensive patterns.
“And if you see Nathan Fyfe running around, sometimes you want to stay a little bit closer to him because he’s so damaging.
“I’ve probably got to learn to go after the footy a bit more because it can work both ways.”