West Coast defender Sharrod Wellingham will make his AFL return from a frustrating knee injury in Saturday’s clash with Sydney at the SCG, while Nic Naitanui is set to receive some new help in the ruck.
Wellingham was initially set to miss only several weeks after hurting his knee during a pre-season training collision.
But the former Magpie struggled to shake off the bone bruising, and ended up being sidelined for more than two months.
Wellingham made a successful return last week via the WAFL, and coach Adam Simpson confirmed the 27-year-old would play against Sydney.
“Yeah, if you ask him, he was ready two weeks ago,” Simpson said on Wednesday.
“He had 17 or 18 possessions in 70 minutes (in the WAFL), and really set up the backline really well, so he’ll play.”
Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis will also return after recovering from the groin injury that had kept him out of last week’s win over Richmond.
But Simpson is still yet to decide how to replace suspended ruckman Scott Lycett.
The 23-year-old had formed a solid combination with Naitanui in recent wins over Fremantle and Richmond, but he was slapped with a one-week ban for punching Ty Vickery.
Simpson said he didn’t want Naitanui to play as a sole ruckman, and he was also reluctant to play Jeremy McGovern in a pinch-hitting ruck role.
That opens the door for Jonathan Giles or Fraser McInnes to get the nod this week.
“He’s at his best when he plays 70/80 per cent of game time in the ruck,” Simpson said of Naitanui.
“To get maximum output, he can’t just ruck all day. He’s not like some of the other guys in the competition.
“We rely on his power and explosiveness. That drops away if he has to carry the can all day.”
West Coast haven’t won away from home since round 16 last year, but Simpson says his team aren’t daunted by the challenge of playing at the SCG – a venue they haven’t stepped foot on since 2010.