STAR West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui says he only agreed to pain-relieving surgery on his plantaris tendons if the club could guarantee he would return before the end of the season.
Naitanui had surgery on the inflamed tendons in both feet following the Eagles' loss to Adelaide in round 12.
Prior to that he had been battling soreness to the point where he required crutches for days after playing and could not train during the week.
Naitanui told Channel Seven on Wednesday night that he would have played the season out with the pain if necessary.
But coach Adam Simpson and the Eagles medical staff felt it was the right decision to get the surgery done.
"There's only a certain amount of times you can stick a needle in to play games," Naitanui said.
"We went down the path of going the conservative option but there was a chance I can still play again this year. That was my main focus.
"I said I could deal with the pain if it meant having surgery at the end of the year. But they said I'm still a chance to come back. I think it was the right decision to make."
The surgery was initially scheduled to sideline Naitanui for eight weeks but he is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He climbed stairs and pushed a scooter with both legs at training on Wednesday at Domain Stadium.
He is scheduled to see the specialist later this week with the hope that he can begin a running program next week.
Simpson said he was really pleased with Naitanui's progress.
"He was worried, and we were too (about) having an operation during the season, and how he would recover from that," Simpson said on Wednesday.
"But the initial stages, early stages, it's been a success. How he recovers in the next week or two will determine how quickly how he gets back. But I'd say he's on schedule, if not ahead, which we're really pleased about.
"He's got a big smile on his face. He's pain-free. So now it's about how he builds himself back up."
Scott Lycett has been recalled to face Essendon in Naitanui's absence on Thursday night.
The Eagles have omitted both Jonathan Giles and Fraser McInnes and have picked key defender Mitch Brown.
It appears likely that Lycett will shoulder a large majority of the ruck load against the Bombers with support from Jeremy McGovern.