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Eagles opt against Nic Nat surgery, goalsneak out for a month

Nic Naitanui hopes to avoid surgery on his significant ankle injury - AFL,West Coast Eagles,Nic Naitanui,Injuries,Jamie Cripps,Daniel Venables
Nic Naitanui hopes to avoid surgery on his significant ankle injury

WEST Coast isn't putting a timeframe on Nic Naitanui's ankle injury and hopes the star ruckman won't require surgery to fix his syndesmosis issue.

Meanwhile, small forward Jamie Cripps (adductor) will miss up to a month as the Eagles count the cost from their one-point loss to Collingwood. 

With little more than seven weeks until finals, Naitanui's return date is up in the air and will depend on how the influential big man responds to rehabilitation.

"We've had a surgical opinion on it and various scans. At this point we have decided to treat it conservatively and we're going to use our best efforts to avoid surgery," general manager football Craig Vozzo said. 

"At this point we're not setting a return to play date because it will be really dependent how he proceeds through his rehabilitation."

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Naitanui has been sidelined from the Eagles' past three finals campaigns due to reconstructions on both knees and was in just his third match back when he hurt his ankle early against Collingwood on Friday night. 

The 29-year-old bravely played on, finishing with 14 disposals and a career-high 11 clearances from less than 60 per cent game time.

It was a year to the round from when he went down with his second ACL rupture against the Magpies at the MCG. 

Naitanui has endured a shocking run since his last September appearance in the 2015 Grand Final disaster against Hawthorn.  

He played 23 of a possible 25 games that season but underwent surgery on both Achilles tendons the next season before rupturing his left ACL in round 22, 2016 against the Hawks.  

His recent return has energised the Eagles' engine room, which dominated Hawthorn (+25) and Fremantle (+13) in clearances, and just shaded Collingwood (+1).  

 

With Nathan Vardy (knee/ankle) out for at least another week, mature recruit Keegan Brooksby shapes as Naitanui's likely replacement to partner Tom Hickey against Melbourne monster Max Gawn and Braydon Preuss this Sunday in Alice Springs.  

Jake Waterman (six goals) and Jack Petruccelle (five) are vying for Cripps' spot. 

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Meanwhile, premiership half-forward Daniel Venables has been ruled out for the season. 

Venables has not been sighted since copping a nasty concussion in round nine.

 

"He's getting a lot better, fortunately, through each phase of his rehab, but we're not quite there yet," Vozzo said.

"We've decided, with Dan's consent and after great discussion with him and his family, that we'll put a line through this season to allow him to fully recover and concentrate fully on his health and get him back to being asymptomatic, which we are confident he will be.

"But the unfortunate thing is we're not going to have Dan available to play, which is big for him as well as us. But it's the best thing and right thing for his long-term health." 

Josh Smith's season is also in doubt after a serious hamstring injury suffered in the WAFL on Sunday.