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Time's right to unleash Nic Nat: Simpson

Rhys Dickinson  March 8, 2018 12:00 PM

Simpson press conference 08.03.18 West Coast coach Adam Simpson talks to the media prior to Thursday's training session.

It might have taken almost 18 months, but West Coast senior coach Adam Simpson is confident now is the right time to unleash star ruckman Nic Naitanui.

The 2012 all-Australian has not played since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while doing battle with Hawthorn in round 22, 2016, but he is finally ready to resume playing after enduring a lengthy and sometimes trying rehabilitation process.

Naitanui will start his build towards an AFL return by playing managed minutes during East Perth’s pre-season hit-out against East Fremantle at East Fremantle Oval on Saturday.

Simpson said Naitanui was raring to go.

“I’m really happy for him. He’s done all the right things, he’s worked really hard to get his body right and this is the next step,” he said.

“He’s done everything we needed him to do, so the next phase is to hit some bodies. He’s beaten up half of our coaching staff and a lot of the things he’s done is one-on-one.

“Now there’s no intraclubs to play or internal practice matches, so the next phase is to get some combative work against opposition.”

Simpson did not reveal how many minutes Naitanui would play against the Sharks on Saturday, nor did he attempt to guess what might happen following the 27-year-old’s appearance in the trial match.

He said Naitanui’s path forward would very much depend on how he pulled up from this weekend’s contest.

“We’re not overplaying it or underplaying it, this is just where he’s at at the moment,” Simpson reiterated.

“He’s human and the body and how it works and how it pulls up is quite different, every player is different.”

Meanwhile, Simpson said Josh Kennedy was firing on all cylinders at training.

However, he didn’t go as far to say the dual Coleman medallist would be ready for the club’s round one stoush with Sydney on March 25.

"I'd say he'd be pushing it (for round one). He's training fully now, but we need to get a good pre-season block in," Simpson said.

"It will be the early part of the year – it may not be round one – but he's just hit the phase now where he can do everything."