West Coast have suffered a massive blow as news has emerged star ruckman Nic Naitanui could miss up to eight weeks of the new season as he returns from groin surgery.
Naitanui bravely played through the pain of a groin injury late last year as he earned a position in the 2012 All Australian side.
Club medical officials initially thought the issue would be solved by rest but the Eagles eventually sent the 22-year-old to have surgery, severely de-railing his pre-season.
Speaking on Tuesday night, West Coast assistant Justin Longmuir confirmed Naitanui was a long way off resuming full training after the ruckman was seen at last week's session still walking with a noticeable limp,
"He's just started running again, so he's a long way behind the rest of the group," Longmuir told Perth radio station ''SportFM''.
"And, we'll take a really cautious approach with him," he added, referring to the club's poor recent history with groin injuries, where the Eagles ran the risk of playing skipper Darren Glass and ruckman Dean Cox, only to see the pair ruled out for long periods.
"(So) if he (Naitanui) comes up for Round 1 that will be great, but we've got the cover if he doesn't come up for Round 1.''
The cover Longmuir was referring to was newly recruited former VFL ruckman Callum Sinclair and emerging Eagles' big man Scott Lycett, who has played three games so far.
Lycett has found it difficult to break into the side with Cox and Naitanui - widely regarded as the competition's premier ruck division - ahead of him.
But Longmuir believes Lycett can also form an effective partnership with Cox if he's needed over the first two months of 2013.
"He's really come of age this pre-season, he's training the house down,'' Longmuir said.
"Hopefully he can take his game to a new level.''Along with Naitanui, Daniel Kerr (knee) and Beau Waters (hip) are expected to miss this year's NAB Cup competition, although forwards Mark LeCras (knee) and Mark Nicoski (hamstring) should be back in action after missing all of the 2012 campaign.