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Veteran Eagle edging closer to comeback

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Hopefully after the bye we might see some footy, which is really pleasing
Adam Simpson on Eric Mackenzie

THERE is finally light at the end of the tunnel for Eric Mackenzie, with the forgotten West Coast veteran edging closer to his latest comeback from serious injury.

While his Eagles teammates have been flying in 2018, the luckless defender has been grounded, working his way back from career-threatening stress fractures in both feet.

Mackenzie signed a one-year deal at the end of last season following his heroics in the Eagles' epic elimination final victory over Port Adelaide.

But the 2014 club champion had surgery in October to fix stiffness and inflammation in his big toes, before a change to his running style since saw him break down with stress fractures.

It has been a long road back, but Mackenzie has been joining in some drills in recent weeks and hitting top gear in running exercises.

"I think he's going to start training with the group as of now," coach Adam Simpson said.

"Hopefully after the bye we might see some footy, which is really pleasing.

"There were some dark periods there earlier in the year with his toes and how he recovered from that.

"It's just great to see him around the club, getting on the track."

Mackenzie wrote himself into Eagles folklore late last year after colliding with a behind post in a desperate effort to force extra time in West Coast's elimination final triumph.

The 30-year-old fought back from form issues after his 2015 knee reconstruction to play both finals and 12 games in the second half of the campaign before his latest setback.

West Coast is light on for experienced key defenders, and Simpson hoped Mackenzie could get back to his best in the run towards finals.

"We're planning on it. He's a best and fairest winner for the club (and) played a really important role – I keep thinking of that elimination final when he saved the day near the goal-line – that wasn't too long ago," he said.

"He's been working really hard and we'll give him every chance to get back."

The Eagles' injury list is starting to thin, with Nathan Vardy set to return from adductor issues at WAFL-alignment club East Perth alongside speedster Jack Petruccelle (ankle) this Saturday.

High-flier Liam Ryan and Daniel Venables are both about a month away following serious ankle injuries.

While East Perth was smashed last round by South Fremantle, the Royals had won their previous four games, and West Coast could soon add to its League-high six debutants.

Mobile forward Jarrod Brander, the club's top pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft, was in the extended squad for Sunday's clash with Hawthorn, while other youngsters are showing promise.

"Oscar Allen's another young player coming through, he's a first-year player but I can see him playing footy pretty soon as well," Simpson said.

"Josh Rotham's also another defender, he was a traveler last week, so he wasn't too far off playing.

"There's some good development going on at East Perth."