Duggan tips underdog Eagles to surprise AFL rivals
Liam Duggan believes a fitter and healthier West Coast squad can shock their rivals and shoot up the AFL ladder this season.
In the annual poll of club captains, no rival skipper picked the Eagles to reach the top-eight in 2023.
The dire predictions came on the back of a horror campaign for Adam Simpson's men, when injuries and illness took their toll during a two-win season.
"We always aim to play finals as quickly as possible and our goal will be no different this year," Eagles defender Duggan told AAP.
"It's probably no surprise that we're not in anyone's predictions but it's also a nice place to be as the underdogs and we can only go and prove them wrong.
"There's a couple of great examples - like what Collingwood did last year - and there's a space in the game for that now.
"There's no such thing as a long build back up to the top. You've just got to compete straight away again.
"I feel like, with our squad healthy again, we're definitely in the mix."
Duggan said West Coast are far fitter entering their round-one clash with North Melbourne on Saturday than they were at the same stage last year.
He has been buoyed by his teammates' drive to want to improve across the board and said game plan tweaks with a greater focus on transition would bring the Eagles up to speed.
But he conceded there were some alarm bells in the pre-season defeat to Adelaide.
"They gave us a little bit of a lesson around the footy with their contest and how clean they were coming out of those pressure moments," Duggan said.
"They made us reflect a little bit about how we're going in that area.
"But we've got the legs now to keep up with the game and putting that all together now is the challenge."
One shining light from the loss to the Crows was No.9 draft pick Reuben Ginbey, whose clean hands and toughness in the contest have put him on the verge of a round-one debut.
"I'm mindful of pumping him up too much because I don't want there to be too much smoke around him but he's a really impressive player," Duggan said.
"He seems to have a lot of the game already figured out and obviously he'll continue to learn, but he's a good kid and he's willing to do that.
"He could probably teach me a thing or two but he still asks the questions.
"He's an exciting prospect for us and I'm sure we'll see him early on in the year."