Star ruckman Nic Naitanui will be unleashed in Thursday night’s Marsh Community Series opener against Essendon, West Coast coach Adam Simpson has confirmed.
It will be the first time Naitanui has featured in the AFL’s official pre-season games since 2016 following long-term knee injuries, and comes after an excellent pre-season for the talismanic Eagle.
“We’ve managed his minutes when he trains - believe it or not he always has to get his minutes managed - but he’s available this week, so he’ll play his first pre-season game for I can’t remember how long,” Simpson told 3AW.
“It just builds good resilience (training in pre-season) and then the in-season situation he’s been in the last couple of years he’s just been compromised through his lack of pre-season.
“It doesn’t guarantee injury-free performance but it just sets you up.
“We’ve had a lot of players who have missed some pre-seasons over the journey but Nic’s got a full book of training in and he’s in good shape.”
Naitanui played five games last year coming back from his second knee reconstruction, and in each match was partnered by fellow ruckman Tom Hickey, who enjoyed a strong campaign in his first season out west.
Premiership tall Nathan Vardy and second-year forward-ruck Bailey Williams are also among the Eagles big men pushing for game time during the Marsh series.
The Eagles will announce their squad for the clash with Essendon at 3.20pm (AWST) on Wednesday.
The match kicks off at 4.40pm on Thursday at Mineral Resources Park, as the build up to the 2020 campaign goes up a notch.
“It hasn’t gone away the nervousness or the ‘have we done the right training?’ and ‘where are we at?’ and ‘are we ready?’,” Simpson said.
“All those things start to creep into your mind three days out and nothing has changed this year, I’ve got the same thoughts I have every year, so we’ll find out a bit more on Thursday.”