West Coast forward Oscar Allen has played down the added responsibility on his shoulders as he prepares to spearhead the Eagles’ new forward-line era after the retirement of Josh Kennedy.
Allen, 23, is set to play his first AFL game in 575 days when he runs out against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
After missing all of last season with a foot injury, there is hope from the Eagles’ faithful that Allen will be their next star forward but he said the expectation and pressure levels haven’t changed since he entered the club as a teenager in 2017.
“There’s always responsibilities and pressures, I think it just changes so when you get to the club you’ve got the pressure to play and hopefully make a career out of it,” Allen said.
“And then once you start playing, you want to play well and then you want the team to win.
“So it’s not really hoping I’ll play well but collectively if we win, then that’s all that matters for me.”
Kennedy may be enjoying his life outside of the AFL system, but he’s still helping guide Allen and mould him into a power forward.
“He was actually at training last week watching so he gave me a few pointers which is always nice of him to give,” Allen said.
“He’s always been a great mentor and leader for me throughout my time at the footy club, so he’s probably the reason I’m in the position I’m here today because of the path he put me on when I got to the club.”
While Allen hasn’t set foot on an AFL field in 18 months, he doesn’t expect to feel like a new player when he returns.
“I was feeling pretty good then (in 2021) and not much changes really,” Allen said.
“You’re progressing over your career as you get older – bigger, stronger and it’s all marginal gains over a short period of time.
“Maybe if I reflect back I was a little bit different but I just think I’m the same as what I’ve always been.”
One thing Allen won’t have to worry about this weekend is star Kangaroos defender Ben McKay who has been ruled out for the early part of the season with a foot injury.
Instead of being relieved, Allen was sympathetic towards the big backman and disappointed he wouldn’t get the chance to match up against him.
“He’s a tough opponent, but he’s got a foot injury which is something I had last year and it’s probably a similar time as well, so obviously I feel for him,” Allen said.
“Hopefully he can recover and get back out there as soon as he can.
“You never really hope for anyone to be injured or not playing and you always want to come up against the best you can.”