West Coast coach Adam Simpson says he’s not sure whether grieving ruckman Nic Naitanui will be available to play in next Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Fremantle in Perth.
Naitanui missed Saturday’s 14-point AFL loss to Hawthorn after his mum died in Fiji on the eve of the match.
The 25-year-old flew to Fiji on Saturday night to be with grieving family members, and it is unknown when he will fly back to Perth.
Naitanui’s potential absence comes at a bad time for the Eagles, who may also be without defender Jeremy McGovern and forward Mark LeCras for a derby that could decide their top-two hopes.
McGovern re-injured his left hamstring in the final quarter against the Hawks, while LeCras was reported for a head-high bump on defender James Frawley.
Simpson said the club would support Naitanui in any way possible to help the All-Australian get through the tough time.
But he’s only hopeful rather than confident of Naitanui playing against the Dockers.
“He’s obviously hurting,” Simpson said.
“Our heart goes out to him. We’re all in a little bit of shock to be honest.
“Family comes first and obviously in these situations we provide any support we can. We’re his family here.
“Hopefully we get Nic available (for the Dockers match) depending on what his circumstances are and what he needs to go through to get right.
“So we’ll back away and let him deal with his family at the moment.”
McGovern first injured his left hamstring against Collingwood three weeks ago, but Simpson said the medicos cleared him to return against the Hawks.
The 23-year-old performed well in defence and as a back-up ruckman before limping off in the final term.
When asked whether the decision to play McGovern against Hawthorn was the right one, Simpson replied: “Well, it doesn’t look like a good call now does it?
“There’s always risks of re-doing your hamstring.
“It didn’t work out this week. We did have to play him in a different position, which I question myself about how we handle that.
“But that’s footy. Sometimes you get it wrong. Unfortunately this one is.”
Ruckman Callum Sinclair, who was withdrawn before the match after jarring his knee against Gold Coast last week, is a chance to return against Fremantle.
The Eagles are now just two points clear of the third-placed Hawks.
And they will tumble to third next week if they lose to the Dockers and Hawthorn beats Geelong.
Simpson took plenty of positives out of the loss to Hawthorn, saying the gutsy display proved his team can match it with the competition’s best.