WEST Coast captain Darren Glass says the Eagles are unsure when All Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui will be available to play in 2013 as he recovers from groin surgery.
Naitanui had groin surgery last November and has recently resumed light training in the club's rehab group.
Glass said the young star had not suffered any setbacks and could still be available for West Coast's round one derby against Fremantle on March 23.
However, the captain conceded a delayed start to the season was also possible, with West Coast taking a cautious approach with its prized big man.
"I don't think there's any timeframe on when Nic's going to return, but I think he's progressing really well and I think he's a chance still for round one," Glass said on Wednesday.
"Each injury you read off how the player's going and their rehab program. I think he's tracking along as expected."
Naitanui, 22, carried groin soreness last year, barely training late in the season to manage the injury.
He had surgery after his groin failed to improve during the post-season break.
Assistant coach Justin Longmuir said West Coast had depth in the ruck department if Naitanui was unavailable for the start of the season, with 20-year-old Scott Lycett ready to emerge.
"He's really come of age this pre-season, he's training the house down," Longmuir told Perth radio station SPORTFM 91.3.
"Hopefully he can take his game to a new level.
"If [Naitanui] comes up for round one that will be great, but we've got the cover if he doesn't come up for round one.
"He's just started running again, so he's a long way behind the rest of the group and we'll take a really cautious approach with him.
"We really need Nic Nat firing at the end of the year, not so much at the start of the year."