Former Melbourne skipper Garry Lyon says West Coast should announce that Nic Naitanui will miss Round 1, regardless of whether the star ruckman will be fit in time for the match or not.
The 27-year-old has not played a game since rupturing his ACL in Round 22 2016, and is becoming increasingly unlikely to make an appearance for the Eagles in their final JLT Community Series hit-out against Fremantle on Sunday – casting doubt on his chances to play in Round 1.
Even if Naitanui can recover in time to be selected for their season opening clash against Sydney at Optus Stadium, Lyon says West Coast coach Adam Simpson should say that he is not playing to put an end to the constant speculation surrounding the ruck’s fitness.
“If I was Adam Simpson and the West Coast Eagles, I would come out and say ‘everyone, Nic Naitanui is not playing in Round 1, that’s what I can tell you,” he said on SEN Breakfast.
“Still prepare as if he is going to play Round 1. Take it off the table, tell everyone he is not playing and then if he gets up and he is fit to play, (you say) ‘Well blow me down, he got better much quicker than we thought so he is playing.’
“Why can’t we do that?”
The Eagles’ ruck stocks were given a further blow over the weekend, with Nathan Vardy sustaining an abductor injury in a practice match against the Dockers yesterday.
With Vardy now set to miss the start of the season and Naitanui’s fitness still in question, the sole ruck responsibilities for the opening weeks of 2018 may fall to Scott Lycett, who played only one game last season due to a shoulder injury.