West Coast coach Adam Simpson is cautiously optimistic that two-time club champion Elliot Yeo is on track to return close to the bye following an uptick in his training loads.
Yeo has been out of action since round 11 last year battling osteitis pubis but a long and frustrating recovery is starting to show significant progress.
The midfield bull participated in match simulation work last Thursday, even manning star forward Josh Kennedy at one stage, and is inching closer to a comeback.
The Eagles have the bye in round 13 and all being well Yeo could boost the side on the run home to finish the season.
“We’re starting to talk about return to play dates now, which is really exciting,” Simpson told Channel Seven.
“We’ve been putting that off a little bit because of the up and down nature of his injury. But he’s getting through training, he’s completing each elevation that’s put in front of him.
“We hope to see him around the bye mark I suppose. That’s the loose goal. We’re thinking when the bye hits he’s not far off.”
The Eagles are unlikely to regain any of their injured stars for Sunday’s trip to face Hawthorn, with defensive pillars Jeremy McGovern (groin) and Tom Barrass (shoulder) doubtful.
“Probably both unlikely this week. I don’t think we’ve got too many soldiers coming back into the side,” Simpson said.
“They’ll be at least another week I think but once again I’m holding out hope.”
Former skipper Shannon Hurn’s prognosis is not yet clear after he damaged his calf again during the captain’s run on Saturday ahead of West Coast’s 11th-straight RAC Derby triumph.
“He hurt himself in the captain’s run, and the captain’s run is just a light jog. It was the last minute before we got them off the track,” Simpson said.
“Unfortunately he felt a little grab in the same spot he had two-and-a-half, three weeks ago, so unfortunately we’ll miss him for a few weeks, I think.
“I haven’t got a full medical report but if it’s the same area, same injury quite often that means an extra week or two.”
At 4-3, the Eagles sit just inside the top eight and require a strong MCG performance to gather some momentum after failing to win two games in a row so far this year.
Simpson saw positive signs from the victory over Fremantle and the group’s test is to play a consistent brand of football.
“We’re really keen to try and play a brand that’s familiar everywhere we play – that’s our next challenge,” he said.
“I thought we played four quarters on the weekend and if we can do that this week, and if we’re stuck there for another week or two (due to border restrictions) so be it.
“We just want to get over there and play our best footy.”