West Coast champion Glen Jakovich has questioned whether club games record holder Dean Cox is holding back the squad's younger ruckmen, saying the Eagles veteran must weigh up whether he is happy to continue as a potential back-up next year.
The dual premiership player made the judgment on his former teammate as Scott Selwood had surgery on his right ankle yesterday. He is expected to miss at least 10 weeks, casting doubt on his return this year.
Cox, 32, was rested from last Saturday's three-point win over Gold Coast at Patersons Stadium, the first game he has missed in 4 1/2 seasons.
Younger proteges Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett both played their best matches of the season in his absence.
Naitanui, 24, was best afield with 22 disposals, six clearances and 34 hit-outs, while 21-year-old Lycett kicked a goal from 16 disposals and took a clutch mark in the dying stages.
Lycett and fellow fringe ruckman Callum Sinclair are out of contract at the end of the year and have battled for game time this season behind Cox, managing a combined seven matches.
Jakovich, who congratulated Cox on breaking his own games record in April, said the six-times All-Australian needed to consider whether he was happy to play on into 2015 as a contributor in up to 14 matches rather than as the team's No.1 ruckman.
"If his form warrants it to a standard that we know Dean Cox consistently has played before, that still presents a bit of a problem for them because are you holding back Sinclair and Lycett? Obviously Naitanui becomes the No.1 ruckman," he said.
"Do you have him (Cox) there as back-up? Does he want to play as back-up? There's a number of questions that have to be asked and answered.
"I think Dean deserves the next 10 weeks to find out, but I think they seriously do need to sit down all together.
"He has shown on a couple of occasions this year where he has been the Dean Cox we know and there has been a couple of occasions where we've had some concerns, thinking that Mother Nature, is it catching up to him?
"I think Dean is a realist knowing that his best footy is past him, but not to say that he can't be a contributor."
Cox, who has played 284 games, was understood to have been planning to extend his career into a 15th season last month.
However, captain Darren Glass' decision last week to retire mid-season to make way for the team's younger players has put Cox's own decision back in the spotlight.
Cox trained strongly at yesterday's open session at Patersons Stadium in a sign he is ready to return against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium this Sunday.
Midfielder Luke Shuey (ankle), a late withdrawal against the Suns, did a series of run-throughs away from the main group.
Star forward Jack Darling and developing tall Jeremy McGovern were both absent.
are you holding back Sinclair and Lycett? " *Glen Jakovich *