AFL Eagles expecting usual Nic Nat magic

Justin Chadwick
Nic Naitanui (r) will be a key figure for the Eagles this season after returning from injury

New West Coast skipper Luke Shuey predicts Nic Naitanui will continue to amaze his teammates in 2020, starting with Sunday's AFL clash with Melbourne at Optus Stadium.

Naitanui has played just 35 games over the past four seasons, with a reconstruction on each knee and a serious ankle injury halting his progress.

Expectations are growing about what Naitanui can produce this year after the 29-year-old was able to complete a full pre-season.

Shuey said Naitanui's lack of matches in recent years won't matter.

"He doesn't get rusty," Shuey said.

"He's just that sort of player, he doesn't need a lot of match fitness.

"He can come in and impact straight away because of his power, speed, and athleticism.

"We understand that he's one of a kind. Sometimes he'll do things that even as teammates it catches us off guard, and we just wonder how he was able to do it.

"Being able to have him out there healthy this year would be nice."

Naitanui's battle with Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn is set to play a crucial role in deciding Sunday's result.

The pair haven't come up against each other since 2015 due to Naitanui's bad run of injuries.

Naitanui won the battle that day, tallying 36 hitouts and six clearances to Gawn's 27 hitouts and two clearances in West Coast's 54-point win.

Given Naitanui's injury history, Eagles coach Adam Simpson has opted to go with a two-pronged ruck attack, with Tom Hickey edging out Nathan Vardy and Bailey Williams for the support role.

West Coast will unveil prized recruit Tim Kelly on Sunday, with the former Cat joining a star-studded midfield that also includes Shuey, Andrew Gaff, Elliot Yeo, and Dom Sheed.

"I know there's been attention on him, and rightly so. He's been a great acquisition for the club," Simpson said of Kelly.

"But it's not about round one. It's not about just this year - it's long term for us.

"We're not putting too much pressure on him in his first game."

Melbourne, who finished 17th last season, will field five new players.

Former Docker Ed Langdon, ex GWS utility Adam Tomlinson, and former Bomber Mitch Brown were all named, along with debutants Toby Bedford and Kysaiah Pickett.