West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui is tracking so well that he could return by round eight, while forward Jamie Cripps is making a late bid to be fit for the club’s season opener against Brisbane.
Naitanui hasn’t played since rupturing the ACL in his right knee in round 17 last year.
He missed all of 2017 after rupturing the ACL in his left knee late in 2016.
Although Naitanui missed about 19 months of action following his first knee injury, his recovery from his second reconstruction has gone much smoother.
So smooth in fact that Naitanui could be back for West Coast’s round eight clash with St Kilda in Melbourne on May 11.
If he fails to make it back in time for that one, he could return in the Friday night blockbuster against Melbourne in Perth a week later.
“He’s going well. Before round 10 is his goal,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson told SEN.
“He’s tracking well, better than the last knee and less issues and less setbacks.
“Each box he ticks he gets to the next stage, so he’s not far off training now.
“In probably three or four weeks he’ll start a pre-season block that hopefully gets him ready for around that round eight or nine mark.”
Cripps was initially set to miss the start of the season because of an ongoing toe complaint.
But Simpson says Cripps is now flying on the track, and he’s hopeful the small forward can feature in the round-one clash with Brisbane at the Gabba on March 23.
Spearhead Josh Kennedy is also racing the clock to feature in that match after an interrupted pre-season in which he has battled shoulder and foot issues.
Kennedy didn’t play in the pre-season win over Geelong last week, and won’t feature against Fremantle in Mandurah on Sunday.
But Simpson revealed Kennedy made it through 10 or 15 minutes of an intraclub hitout this week.
“It was the first time he has played some competitive footy for a while so that was good,” Simpson said.
“He will play a good half next week when we have a bit of an intraclub (game) and we will talk about his availability for round one.
“He is tracking towards playing but his match fitness is something we will keep an eye on.”
Simpson said he won’t risk Kennedy for round one if the veteran is still underdone.