West Coast are set to move four significant steps closer to a full-strength line-up in Sunday's round-two NAB Cup clash against Collingwood at Patersons Stadium.
West Coast are set to move four significant steps closer to a full-strength line-up in Sunday's round-two NAB Cup clash against Collingwood at Patersons Stadium, with Josh Kennedy, Dean Cox, Beau Waters and Matt Rosa all likely to take on the Magpies.
But the Eagles still have fitness concerns in the four-week run to a round-one western derby against Fremantle as ruckman Nic Naitanui, midfielder Daniel Kerr and forward Mark Nicoski race against time to be fit.
Eagles football manager Neale Daniher yesterday confirmed that, barring mishap, Kennedy, Cox and Waters would all play their first games of the pre-season, with Rosa a strong chance to join them.
Kerr and Naitanui are still doing most of their training away from the main group and were absent from an open training session at Patersons Stadium yesterday.
Nicoski, who missed the 2012 season with a serious hamstring injury, trained but is still at least two weeks away from match practice, Daniher said.
"It is just a matter of getting some miles into him now, as in footy training miles," Daniher said.
"He trained fully on Friday and he pulled up well from that."
Nicoski could still get match practice in the pre-season to stake a claim for a round-one berth but both Naitanui and Kerr, key men in West Coast's climb back up the ladder in the past two seasons, are racing the clock.
Naitanui continues to work his way through a rehabilitation program after off-season groin surgery. Kerr is doing likewise after clean-up surgery on a knee problem.
"They are just progressing through their running programs and they are both going OK," Daniher said.
"We haven't put a timetable on either. We are hoping that Nic won't be too far away come round one but we will wait and see."
The news on Kennedy is significantly better. The 25-year-old, still a game shy of 100 AFL matches after a serious foot problem restricted him to just nine games in 2012, has had one of his fullest pre-seasons despite minor surgery before Christmas and a "tweaked" ankle injury, which kept him out of the Eagles' round-one NAB Cup triple header against Geelong and Fremantle.
Kennedy moved freely in a series of mobility drills supervised by high performance manager Glenn Stewart at yesterday's session, before joining teammates for other drills. He showed no signs of lingering ankle soreness.
The importance of match practice for Cox, who was also pulled out of round one after dislocating a finger the week before the games, is heightened because of the probable absence of Naitanui from at least the first game of the season.
Collingwood have been installed as equal favourites to win the NAB Cup, alongside Carlton at $5, with the Eagles third in betting at $5.50.
North Melbourne ($6), Brisbane ($7) and Essendon ($8) have also been strongly supported.
Collingwood are likely to make a decision today on whether Sunday's match will mark Quinten Lynch's first against his old club. The Magpies are keen for Lynch and Travis Cloke to get as much time together ahead of round one, but he is still likely to be rested for one pre-season game.