WEST Coast will be conservative with star ruckman Nic Naitanui in his first hit-out of the year at Patersons Stadium on Thursday night.
Naitanui will make his return in the practice match against Fremantle after an injury-interrupted 2013 that saw him play just 11 matches due to persistent groin issues.
Naitanui has not played since July last year, the Eagles’ round 17 loss to the Sydney Swans.
He has been carefully managed during the pre-season with an aim to avoid the soreness he carried throughout 2013 and Eagles coach Adam Simpson says the early expectations on Naitanui are very low.
"We're not looking at an exceptional performance from Nic," Simpson said.
"We just want to get his numbers up. It's been a long time since he's played so we'll be really conservative with our approach.
"If we get out of the game with 50 or so minutes, with no injuries and he just has a good run around, we'll be really happy."
The new Eagles coach refused to be drawn on whether Naitanui would play round one against the Western Bulldogs.
"We haven't looked that far ahead," Simpson said. "If he gets through tomorrow [against Fremantle] we'll work out what we do after that."
Thursday's practice match was originally scheduled for a 4.40pm start local time but due to the expected 35C degree heat the clubs agreed to move the start time to 6pm.
"It was a mutual decision," Simpson said.
"I think it is the right one. No reason to cook ourselves. We might get a few more supporters here as well."
The Eagles plan on playing another intra-club in the week prior to their round one clash on March 23 at Patersons Stadium.
Simpson believes that intra-club, plus Thursday's clash with the Dockers, will give his side a good opportunity to practise their new game style on the unique dimensions of Patersons Stadium.
"It will be a bit different playing on the ground," Simpson said. “It is the first time under my coaching that we're playing on this oval.
"It's a different sized ground, in comparison to the two grounds we've played at, so I'll be interested to see how we go."