West Coast coach Adam Simpson has praised the physical and mental resilience of Jack Darling and hopes there's another 100 AFL games left in the star forward.
Darling will notch his 250-game milestone in Sunday's clash with Richmond at the MCG.
The 30-year-old's AFL career hung in the balance earlier this year when he initially refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The delay in receiving the jab meant Darling missed out on a key chunk of the pre-season and his form during the early part of the season was subsequently patchy.
Darling's lack of impact even saw him receive bronx cheers at times from Eagles fans at home games, but he has since worked his way back into form.
"He had a rough patch earlier in the year," Simpson said in reference to Darling's vaccine hesitancy.
"You reflect on that time, and I think a few people would take a few things back ... considering where we're at now as a society.
"He had to build his way into this season, that's for sure. He's pretty much had a pre-season on the run.
"He copped a bit of criticism earlier in the year, but his last four or five weeks he's showing no signs of slowing up.
"We're really proud of how he fought back from that part of the season."
When Darling's career is brought up in conversation, his dropped mark in the 2015 grand-final loss to Hawthorn is normally one of the first things mentioned.
But what has become somewhat lost is the fact Darling has been one of West Coast's most durable and reliable players since making his debut in 2011.
In his 11 completed seasons, Darling has booted at least 42 goals in seven of them.
His 467 career goals places him third in West Coast's all-time goalkicking list, behind only Josh Kennedy (698) and Peter Sumich (514).
"He's always been resilient - 250 games, premiership player, All-Australian. He's done it all," Simpson said.
"There could be another 100 games left. We're a better team when he's in it.
"He's evolved with the game as well. He's not 200cm. He's a small key position player (191cm) that very rarely gets beaten one on one."
The Eagles will be boosted by the return of star ruckman Nic Naitanui against Richmond.
"You can get on the front foot a little bit more with Nic in the ruck, no doubt," Simpson said.
"But that doesn't guarantee success. He's a great player and we want him in our side ... but it's a bit deeper than just getting the big fella back (and it fixing our supply issues)."
Australian Associated Press
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