West Coast have ended a day of cat and mouse by opting against recalling star ruckman Nic Naitanui for Saturday’s AFL clash with Collingwood at the MCG.
Naitanui resumed full training last week and was considered a 50-50 chance to return against the Magpies.
But the Eagles have decided to give Naitanui one more week on the training track to make sure he’s fully recovered from the surgery he had on both feet.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson is usually forthcoming about team selection.
But, at lunchtime on Thursday, he refused to give anything away regarding Naitanui’s chances of playing when he fronted the media.
With the team announcement still four hours away, Simpson wanted Collingwood to sweat for a bit longer.
“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.”
West Coast recalled Dom Sheed for his first AFL match of the season, while Will Schofield, Mark Hutchings and Simon Tunbridge also return to the side.
Jack Redden (shoulder) couldn’t be considered, while Tom Barrass (rested), Jonathan Giles (omitted) and Jackson Nelson (omitted) drop out of the squad.
Collingwood were dealt a triple injury blow, with Alex Fasolo (shoulder), Jarryd Blair (groin), and Ben Sinclair (concussion) all forced out.
Rupert Wills was named for his debut, while Ben Crocker and Jordan De Goey also come into the side.
Although West Coast have won all five games since Naitanui underwent surgery last month to relieve achilles tendon pain, their form has been scratchy.
Simpson conceded they were lucky to escape with a six-point win against the Demons after losing the inside-50m count 66-37.
The fifth-placed Eagles (12-5) 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.”