John Worsfold is confident West Coast's modern strength and conditioning methods will have ruckman Nic Naitanui and midfielder Daniel Kerr available for the round-one western derby against Fremantle, even though both are yet to join the Eagles' main training group.
Naitanui has had his pre-season derailed by off-season groin surgery. Kerr had a clean-up operation on a knee problem and has also been held back.
Both could still be one to two weeks away from joining in main training, ruling them out of match practice before the start of the home-and-away season.
But coach Worsfold stressed that modern methods meant they were still a strong chance to play in the clash with Fremantle, three weeks from today.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with _The Weekend West _, Worsfold said he remained optimistic that both could play in round one.
"It is pretty hard to predict because there are levels of being ready," Worsfold said. "Daniel Kerr years ago didn't play any footy in pre-season games and got three Brownlow Medal votes in round one.
"Nic is doing a lot of work now - a lot of his pre-season loading with a heavier running phase and some kicking, but he won't join in until he is really prepared."
Asked if Naitanui remained a good chance to play in the season's first western derby, Worsfold said: "We are hoping so. And that is going to depend on no setbacks."
Kerr was in a simular situation, he said.
"He is in the same program so I have not seen them train much," Worsfold said. "I saw Daniel in here (Wednesday) and he was drenched with sweat, so he had just been out there doing his running program and he seemed pretty happy with that."
Worsfold said he was comfortable that his team was rated one of the three most likely - along with Hawthorn and Collingwood - to contend for the flag.His team had shown consistency over the past two seasons and he expected it to improve further in 2013.
Do the Eagles get away with ducking when tackled?Vote
Do you have a story for us to investigate?
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.