Eagles remain coy on Naitanui AFL status

West Coast coach Adam Simpson has begun the mind games leading into Saturday’s AFL clash with Collingwood at the MCG, refusing to reveal whether Nic Naitanui will play.

Simpson is usually forthcoming with selection news during his weekly media conferences.

But the third-year coach was giving nothing away on Thursday when he fronted reporters at Domain Stadium.

Naitanui, who has missed the past five games after undergoing surgery to relieve achilles tendon soreness, is back in full training and could return against the Magpies.

But Simpson said he didn’t want to give Collingwood an advantage by revealing Naitanui’s status before the teams were named on Thursday evening.

“He’s a player you’ve got to plan against,” Simpson said.

“It’s actually common sense (that) we don’t announce our side too much earlier than everyone else.”

When pushed on the prospect of whether Naitanui would play, Simpson replied: “We’ll move on from that question.

“Of course I can (understand the intrigue). I get them every day, those questions.

“I’m all good with it. It’s all fine. But you’re not going to get anything out of me, so don’t bother.”

Simpson didn’t even want to reveal whether he would recall fit-again midfielder Dom Sheed.

“Nah, sorry,” Simpson said.

On paper, the fifth-placed Eagles (12-5) look well placed to challenge for a top-four berth.

But their recent form has been a huge concern, with Simpson conceding they were lucky to escape with a six-point win last week against Melbourne.

The Demons won the inside-50m count 66-37 in that game, and also controlled most of the other key stats.

A week earlier, West Coast were almost overrun by Carlton.

West Coast are yet to rediscover the form that took them all the way to last year’s grand final.

Simpson knows the clock is ticking, and he’s desperate to fix up his team’s problem areas.

“It’s interesting. We’re in winning form, but probably not good form,” Simpson said.

“We’ve won eight out of (past) 10 games, so we’re pretty happy with that.

“But clearly, we can play better. We’ve acknowledged that.

“You would have thought we’re not going to progress too far if we continue to play the same standard we’re playing at the moment.

“It’s not panic stations, but it’s real. It’s what we’re going through.”

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