The West Coast Eagles' horror AFL season has taken another turn for the worse, with ruckman Nic Naitanui ruled out for the 2023 season. Naitanui, a former All-Australia, hasn't played a game this year thanks to an Achilles injury, which now requires surgery.
The 33-year-old, twice a best and fairest winner for the club, was left with 'no choice' but to undergo surgery, coach Adam Simpson said. Eagles fans had already been left somewhat dispirited after the timeline for his return from the nagging injury was changed from six to seven weeks to 'TBC' earlier in the week.
Simpson said Naitanui's progress had gone well initially, before 'stagnating'. Subsequent scans showed a need for surgery, ruling him out for the rest of the club's already dismal 2023 campaign.
“He was tracking okay, stagnated a little bit and we had a follow-up scan recently and it looks like he’s going to need surgery, so it’s time to pull the pin on the season,” Simpson said. “We’ve got no choice unfortunately, so he’ll get surgery early next week maybe.”
Naitanui's career has been frequently blighted by injuries, but he has consistently starred when healthy. He played all 22 games in 2021 after finally overcoming a brutal four-year stretch in which he managed just 55 appearances for the club.
He was able to play eight games in 2022, but his season was cut short by persistent knee issues. Adding to the Eagles' woes is the fact that they will be unable to replace him, having been unable to move him to the inactive players list prior to the mid-season draft last week.
"Hopefully we can get this right and he can work through the rehab and we see him next year," Simpson added. "I know it's something you can fully recover from.
"It's just a long stint out, so therefore the season is out of the question. I don't think it has (ruptured). But it's got to the point where it needs surgical intervention to fix it.
"It's been unfortunate this year. It came out of the blue a little bit in the pre-season. It's something you can get over for sure."
Nic Naitanui blow worsens West Coast's dire injury situation
Naitanui's latest blow continues a torrid run on the injury front for last-placed West Coast, who now have a staggering 21 players on their injury list, with only four of those a chance to return this week. The Eagles will be forced to make at least six changes to their side for Saturday's clash with the Crows in Adelaide after Shannon Hurn (hamstring), Elijah Hewett (concussion), Josh Rotham (finger), Callum Jamieson (hip), Connor West (knee) and Liam Duggan (infection/suspended) were all ruled out.
Tom Barrass, who was a late withdrawal from last week's loss to Collingwood with a hip injury, won't be available to return until after the bye. Jamie Cripps, Jeremy McGovern, Liam Ryan, Tom Cole and Jamaine Jones are other notable names who are still out.
Captain Luke Shuey (ankle/hamstring) is set to return against the Crows and he could be joined by Jack Darling (fractured arm), Luke Edwards (concussion) and Samo Petrevski-Seton (corked leg).
Even if all four are able to return West Coast may need to hand a debut to raw ruckman Harry Barnett in order to inject some much-needed height into the side.
The injury toll to the senior side means West Coast's WAFL outfit may have as little as one Eagle in their ranks this weekend.
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