West Coast coach Adam Simpson has ruled out the prospect of dropping Nic Naitanui for poor form, claiming the star ruckman will play in Saturday night’s AFL clash with Port Adelaide if fit.
Naitanui has struggled this season after being plagued by groin issues for the past 18 months.
The 23-year-old tallied just six possessions in Saturday’s 75-point loss to Geelong before being subbed off with soreness.
Brownlow Medallist Brad Hardie has called on the Eagles to consider dropping Naitanui, but Simpson said it wasn’t on the cards.
“If he’s available to play, he’ll play seniors,” Simpson told Perth radio station 6PR.
“The question is, is he fit enough to play?
“He’s coming off a limited pre-season. And not just one pre-season, it’s two or three.
“We’re trying our best to manage his time. Of course we’d like an improvement with what he can do. But at the moment it’s a bit of a battle.”
The Eagles (3-1) are set to be bolstered by the return of four key players against the Power.
Midfielder Luke Shuey is free to play after serving his one-match suspension, while skipper Darren Glass (hip), on-baller Chris Masten (hamstring) and wingman Matt Rosa (illness) are also set to return.
Naitanui was still sore on Monday, and will be assessed later in the week.
Port Adelaide are flying at 3-1 following their 113-point demolition of Brisbane over the weekend, and are set to be boosted by the return of All-Australian Chad Wingard, who has overcome an ankle injury.
West Coast failed to kick a goal after quarter-time against Geelong, with Simpson conceding his team’s midfield got “destroyed”.
But with Shuey, Masten and Rosa all set to return, Simpson is confident of a far better display against the Power.