At just 20 years of age Xavier Ellis was a premiership hero. The classy left-footer starred with 28 disposals and a goal as Hawthorn upset Geelong in a classic in the 2008 Grand Final.
Unfortunately for the former No.3 draft pick injuries have badly affected his output since winning a premiership medal. Over the last few years at Hawthorn, when fit, Ellis has been a valuable contributor with his poise and football smarts standing out.
At the end of the 2013 season Ellis followed former Hawks assistant coach Adam Simpson over to the west to join West Coast. Simpson, well aware of the 25-year-old’s ability, convinced the Eagles to sign Ellis as a free agent.
In recent seasons, despite a surprisingly good 2011 and 2012, the Eagles have lacked run and more importantly someone with elite foot skills and decision making. These two traits are things Simpson and his new-look coaching staff will hope Ellis can add to an Eagles midfield which is more than capable of winning its fair share of ball in the middle of the ground.
In his first two pre-season games with West Coast Ellis has shown the poise, run, and skill level the Eagles have lacked and desperately needed after a disastrous 2013 campaign.
Ellis is capable of filling multiple roles, whether it be running off a wing, playing loose in a quarterback role across half-back, or even working with the likes of Scott Selwood and Matt Priddis in the middle of the ground.
If he plays across half-back, or on a wing, he will at the very least free up the likes of Shannon Hurn and Andrew Gaff, two of West Coast’s other top line ball users. At his best, Ellis himself could have a devastating effect on opposition teams by delivering high quality ball into a dangerous Eagles forward line or rebounding from the half-back line.
A fully fit Ellis, along with the likes of Gaff, Hurn, Sharrod Wellingham and Luke Shuey should provide West Coast with enough run, rebound, and effective ball use to make a significant improvement on last year.
Having watched Ellis develop at Hawthorn, first-year coach Simpson will be well aware of his new recruit’s injury struggles. Since making his debut in 2007 Ellis has struggled to play out a full season, managing only two games last season, and 16 in the last three.
West Coast acquired Ellis for very little as he was an unrestricted free agent, so in that regard they will feel there is only a massive upside to their investment. Should the talented utility manage to stay on the park, his poise under pressure and ball use could be just what the Eagles need to move back up the ladder in 2014.