WEST Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has conceded he may miss the entire 2017 season after undergoing a knee reconstruction at the end of last year.
The high-flying Eagle said the recovery process was proving tougher than he ever imagined it would be, and although he was progressing well, the mental challenge was enormous.
"I knew the journey would be hard but never did I think it was as tough as it has been," Naitanui told Channel Seven.
Early in the pre-season, Naitanui said he was aiming for a return late in 2017, but said he might have to re-adjust his thinking and aims for the following months.
"It could be round one, 2018 at the new stadium," Naitanui said.
"That’s something good to look forward to, but at the same time it’s so far away.
"If I was in my last year I’d really have a crack [at a 2017 return] but I’ve got to be smart about it and look to my long-term future."
The Eagles recruited North Melbourne veteran Drew Petrie and Geelong tall Nathan Vardy after Naitanui's injury left their ruck stocks depleted.