WEST Coast isn’t placing a timeframe on when Nic Naitanui will return from his ankle injury and hopes the star ruckman won’t require surgery to fix his syndesmosis problem.
Meanwhile, goal-sneak Jamie Cripps (adductor) will miss up to a month of football as the Eagles count the cost from their one-point loss to Collingwood.
With just six games remaining in the home-and-away season, Naitanui’s return date remains a mystery and is dependent on how the Fijian flyer responds to rehabilitation.
“We’ve had a surgical opinion on it and various scans. At this point, we have decided to treat it conservatively and we’re going to use our best efforts to avoid surgery,” said West Coast football manager Craig Vozzo.
Naitanui has missed the club’s past three finals campaigns due to reconstructions on both knees and was just in his third game back when he injured his ankle early against the Magpies at Optus Stadium last Friday night.
The 29-year-old bravely played on, finishing the night with 14 possessions and a career-high 11 clearances from less than 60 per cent game time.
With Nathan Vardy (knee/ankle) to spend at least another week on the sidelines, mature-age recruit Keegan Brooksby is likely to partner Tom Hickey against Melbourne star Max Gawn and Braydon Preuss in Alice Springs this Sunday.
Jake Waterman (six goals) or speedster Jack Petruccelle (five) will come in to replace Cripps after impressing in the WAFL last round.
In other injury news at West Coast, premiership half-forward Daniel Venables has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Venables hasn’t been sighted since suffering a nasty concussion in the round nine win over Melbourne.
“He’s getting a lot better, fortunately, through each phase of his rehab, but we’re not quite there yet,” Vozzo said.
“We’ve decided, with Dan’s consent and after great discussion with him and his family, that we’ll put a line through this season to allow him to fully recover and concentrate fully on his health and get him back to being asymptomatic, which we are confident he will be.”
“But the unfortunate thing is we’re not going to have Dan available to play, which is big for him as well as us. But it’s the best thing and right thing for his long-term health.”