West Coast coach Adam Simpson has urged fans not to write off the Eagles’ premiership hopes just yet, saying the team can still contend for the flag even if Nic Naitanui has torn his ACL.
Simpson is bracing for the worst after Naitanui injured his left knee while landing awkwardly during Friday night’s 25-point win over Hawthorn at Domain Stadium.
Naitanui was on crutches after the match, and the early signs indicate he has torn his anterior cruciate ligament.
Scans over the weekend will confirm the extent of the damage.
“I fear for the worst, hope for the best at the moment. It doesn’t look great,” a shattered Simpson said.
“When any of your soldiers get hurt like that, you’re going to feel for them.”
With Naitanui almost certain to play no further part this season, West Coast’s flag hopes appear doomed.
Naitanui played pivotal roles in recent wins over premiership hopefuls GWS and Hawthorn.
The 2012 All-Australian kicked the winning goal against the Giants, and he was pivotal in the ruck against Hawthorn before getting injured in the third quarter.
West Coast struggled earlier this season when Naitanui missed six games with an Achilles tendon injury.
Although the Eagles ended up winning five of those matches, they were mostly against easy beats.
But Simpson is adamant his team can still cause some damage this year, even if it’s from outside the top four and without Naitanui.
“He’s one of our best players, and we saw the influence he’s had in the past few weeks,” Simpson said.
“But we need to mature to a point where we don’t have to rely on just one player to get it done.
“It’s another test for us, which our boys are looking forward to. It’s been a different year, but we’ve found a way to win 15 games.
“Don’t write us off. The season’s still alive and we’re up for the challenge.”