Nic Naitanui has recovered well from his first match practice this pre-season, will play four quarters in a West Coast-East Perth intra-club match on Friday and looks certain to play against the Western Bulldogs in round one.
That was the message from coach Adam Simpson as the Eagles launched their season at Burswood this morning.
At a breakfast highlighted by the announcement of Zac Mainwaring, son of club legend Chris, as the club’s junior No.1 ticket holder, Simpson said he could not be more pleased with the Eagles' pre-season.
However, he added it all counted for nothing if they didn’t back it up against the Bulldogs a week on Sunday.
Naitanui played just over half a game against Fremantle last week and Simpson promised to build on that on Friday.
“We need to get a good solid hit-out into Nic,” he said. “He played 45 to 50 minutes last week which we wanted and now the next step is to play a full game.
“He pulled up well. Good enough to train yesterday and play on Friday.
“We didn’t want to throw him in against the big fellow (Aaron Sandilands) against Freo but we will explore a little bit in the ruck,” he said. “He needs to do a little bit to get used to the collision but he will also play forward and on ball.”
Simpson said selectors faced a tough ask picking a team for round one because the Eagles had a healthy list with a lot of players pressing for berths.
“We are happy with our pre-season, that is for sure," he said. "Albeit NAB Challenge and practice match form we have seen progression with our style of play and our injury list is healthy. We are pleased with all that.
“We are fully aware of where practice matches sit in the history books but to continue the momentum of what we had pre-Christmas into January and February is pleasing.”
Simpson said it was important for West Coast to win pre-season games as the bedded down his new game plan.
“It is important for everyone at the club to have a little bit of success and it is pleasing. It means nothing if we don’t perform next week and I think we all know that. But it has given us some confidence,” he said.
“Being a new coach with new coaching staff and a new program, even our training program is different so to have a bit of success probably just gives us a little bit of reward.”