The NAB Challenge draws to a close this Sunday as Fremantle locks horns with West Coast at Subi (now called Domain Stadium).
Plenty of experience comes into the Freo squad, Danyle Pearce, Luke McPharlin, Aaron Sandilandsand, and Lee Spurr have been added to Freo’s NAB Challenge squad, with Pearce and Sandilands available to play their first hit-outs for 2015.
Going out of the squad are Paul Duffield (rib), Tendai Mzungu (hamstring), Hayden Ballantyne (calf) and Michael Barlow (ankle) who will miss with another week with injury to prepare for round 1.
The Eagles welcome back Nic Natanui who will finally play his first game of 2015.
The star ruckman has had a strong pre-season but hasn’t featured in any of the Eagles’ pre-season matches against the Indigenous All Stars, Carlton and Port Adelaide due to back-related tightness.
West Coast has the option to play some players in the WAFL on March 28 ahead of the round one clash with the Western Bulldogs on April 4, but Simpson said Sunday’s NAB Challenge match will be Naitanui’s only hit-out of the pre-season.
“You’ll see him play (this week), definitely,” Simpson said at the Eagles’ season launch at Crown Perth on Tuesday morning
“I would’ve thought 70-80 minutes would be around about the time we’re looking for. We’ll manage that in a way that’s different than we would in round one.
“He’s probably a game off being absolutely cherry ripe. But we think a good hit-out this week, see how he pulls up, and get him for round one.”
Scott Selwood will also return to the Eagles’ side this week after playing 58 minutes for East Perth last Friday night.
“He pulled up well,” Simpson said.
“The progression for him now is 80-90 minutes this week. We’ll look at whether he needs to play WAFL again before round one.”
The Eagles received some positive news about Jack Darling this week with the dynamic forward set to return to the training track after increasing his running loads but there is still no definitive date placed on his playing return.
“He’s training now,” Simpson said.
“He’s just about to get into using the footy and training with the main group.
“When he gets his fitness up, and (if) progresses back to full strength, I’d say between rounds one and six if everything goes well.”
The Eagles have suffered another foot stress injury with draftee Damien Cavka set to miss eight or nine weeks.
Cavka was in a moon boot at the season launch and Simpson said the club would be very cautious with the 18-year-old midfielder.
“We’ll manage him in the right way,” Simpson said.
“It’s not about getting him back as soon as we possibly can, it’s about getting 10 years out of him.
“He’s probably a week or so in the boot, and then he’ll start to transition back. So he might be an eight- or nine-week process.”
5 Garrick Ibbotson, 6 Danyle Pearce, 7 Nat Fyfe, 8 Nick Suban, 9 Matt de Boer, 10 Michael Walters, 11 Tom Sheridan, 12 Jon Griffin, 16 David Mundy, 17 Hayden Crozier, 18 Luke McPharlin, 19 Connor Blakely, 22 Tanner Smith, 23 Chris Mayne, 24 Max Duffy, 27 Lachie Neale, 28 Brady Grey, 29 Matthew Pavlich, 30 Zac Clarke, 31 Aaron Sandilands, 32 Stephen Hill, 33 Cam Sutcliffe, 34 Lee Spurr, 36 Alex Silvagni, 37 Michael Johnson, 38 Jack Hannath, 46 Clancee Pearce
WEST COAST SQUAD
1 Mitch Brown, 2 Mark LeCras, 3 Andrew Gaff, 4 Dom Sheed, 5 Brad Sheppard, 6 Elliot Yeo, 7 Chris Masten, 9 Nic Naitanui, 10 Scott Selwood, 11 Matt Priddis, 12 Sharrod Wellingham, 13 Luke Shuey, 15 Jamie Cripps, 17 Josh Kennedy, 20 Jeremy McGovern, 24 Matt Rosa, 25 Shannon Hurn, 26 Sam Butler, 28 Tom Lamb, 29 Scott Lycett, 30 Jackson Nelson, 32 Simon Tunbridge, 33 Josh Hill, 35 Patrick McGinnity, 36 Fraser McInnes, 44 Jamie Bennell 47 Kane Lucas
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