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Aussie Rules

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Eagle McGovern challenged by dirty ball

Opposition sides are using 'dirty' tactics to bring down West Coast this season, but Eagles defender Jeremy McGovern is vowing to fight his way through it.

West Coast's premiership defence has gotten off to a topsy-turvy start, with heavy losses to Port Adelaide and Geelong highlighting some problem areas.

Fixing the team's contested ball stats has been a big focus in recent weeks following those losses.

But dealing with new tactics from opposition sides has also been a challenge.

When Port Adelaide steamrolled West Coast by 42 points in Perth in round five, Power co-captain Ollie Wines revealed his team had purposely played a "dirty" brand of football to get the win.

That "dirty" was in reference to Port Adelaide's bid to keep the ball more on the ground to limit the amount of intercept marks McGovern and his teammates could take.

McGovern is arguably the AFL's best marker, and teams are placing an emphasis on making sure they kick the ball far away from wherever the star Eagle is stationed.

The result has been a sizeable drop in contested marks for McGovern - from 2.79 a game last season, down to 1.88 this season.

"If they're targeting me, so be it. I've got to fight through it," McGovern said.

"It doesn't bother me to be honest.

"The way they move the ball is a little bit different. They try to make you a bit more accountable with a few players and different roles.

"They don't like to kick it long these days. Which is fine. If they're good enough to do that, then we have to deal with it."

West Coast's defence is flush with intercept markers.

Shannon Hurn, McGovern, Tom Barrass and Brad Sheppard are all class when it comes to picking off opposition kicks.

But with rival sides now reluctant to give the ball much air time when they kick it forward against the Eagles, McGovern said it was important for West Coast's defence to adjust accordingly.

"I guess it is a little bit of a compliment," McGovern said of the new tactics employed by rivals.

"It's hurt us a little bit at times as well, not being able to adjust.

"You put a bit of pressure on yourself to try to impact for the team. And it makes it hard to impact in the air when it's going to ground the whole time."

Recent wins over Gold Coast and St Kilda have improved West Coast's record to 5-3 heading into Friday night's clash with Melbourne in Perth.

The Eagles could be boosted by the return of goalsneak Willie Rioli (foot), while Melbourne will be without defender Michael Hibberd (broken collarbone) and forward Jake Melksham (leg).

--End of article--

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