Nic Naitanui is certain he will overcome a groin injury in time to play in round one, but remains in doubt for West Coast’s opening NAB Challenge match next month.
The star ruckman has been held back from full training following a 2013 wrecked by injury.
Naitanui, 23, was on light duties with teammate Sharrod Wellingham in the Eagles’ rehabilitation group at McGillivray Oval today.
West Coast begin the premiership season with a home game against the Western Bulldogs on March 23 and Naitanui said he would be available for selection.
“I don’t have any doubt in my head,” Naitanui told Seven News.
“I’m feeling good. The body’s pulled up well over the break as well so, yeah, feeling real good.”
Naitanui regularly said during last pre-season he was on track for a round-one start, but didn’t end up playing until round six — and only then as a substitute.
The 2012 All-Australian played the next 10 games but was never able to consistently produce his best, averaging just 11 disposals and two marks as the Eagles spiralled out of finals contention.
Naitanui today dismissed reports he could be sidelined for several months, but was unsure about his chances of playing against Fremantle in the NAB Challenge on February 18.
“I don’t know where they come up with it but I’m feeling pretty good,” he said.
“I’m enjoying running. I guess the heat makes it a bit tougher, but I’m enjoying my training at the moment
“For me it’s just being back in the main group and assess it from there, week by week and see how I’m feeling.
“If NAB Cup is an option, I’ll play, but if not I’ll look to the proper season.”
Naitanui said veteran ruckman Dean Cox had been leading West Coast’s ruck division as a pseudo development coach throughout the pre-season training program.
“He’s the player-coach at the moment, and you don’t have too many these days,” Naitanui said.
“He’s been really good in our development and helping us through the last few months.
“Coxy takes charge of most things. I’m sure he might be (an AFL coach) down the track but for now I guess he’s more worried about playing games and just coaching as needed.”