AN EMOTIONAL Adam Simpson is resigned to losing star ruckman Nic Naitanui for the rest of the 2018 season, after the big Eagle suffered an apparent serious injury to his right knee against Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday.
Naitanui injured his right knee in an innocuous ruck contest on the wing in the second term, with the Eagles' big man immediately limping from the field and going down to the rooms to be looked at by club medicos.
Simpson said the Eagles would hold their breath for the results of scans to come through but admitted "it doesn't look great" for Naitanui.
The Eagles coach said his emotions were "all over the place" as he came to the realisation of the seriousness of Naitanui's injury.
WATCH Nic Nat injures knee
"We don't know, but it doesn't look great, so fingers crossed (it's not as serious as it looked)," Simpson said in his post-match press conference.
"There were some emotions going on in the rooms after the game but he's probably the one who is the most relaxed with at all.
"Your heart breaks a bit if it's the case (he has ruptured his ACL) – it's his other knee and words can't describe (the feelings I have).
"But as he said he's not dying, or he's not dead. He's still the same person, it's just unfortunate that we may have lost him for another season."
Naitanui ruptured the ACL in his left knee in round 22, 2016 and missed the entire 2017 season as he recovered.
SIMMO ON THE WIN Watch the coach's full media conference
Simpson conceded he did not tell his players about the fears that were held for Naitanui when they came together at half-time.
With Naitanui on the bench for the second half, the Eagles rallied to claim a meritorious 35-point victory and end Collingwood's seven-game winning streak.
"To play with that spirit and brotherhood and I'm sure some of the players knew and sometimes that rocks you, having gone through it before – your mind sometimes is a bit off task," Simpson said.
Simpson said it was difficult to comprehend the prospect of losing Naitanui for the year, but was elated at having won such an important game at a venue his side had struggled to perform at recently.
The Eagles have now won five of their 12 games at the MCG under Simpson's leadership, and have beaten Carlton and Collingwood at the home of football this season.
EAGLES END PIE STREAK Full match coverage and stats
"I'm all over the shop… I didn't handle it very well," Simpson said.
"It's bittersweet. To show your emotions, there's nothing wrong with that."
With Naitanui's season in doubt, Simpson said emerging big man Scott Lycett was ready for the challenge of being West Coast's No.1 ruckman.
"He's been yearning for that challenge and he's had it at stages last year and this year but against Grundy… I'm not sure how the battle went but he held his own," Simpson said.
"We don't want to rely on one particular player. Nic's an A-grade ruckman, we want him in our side.
"The fact is that Nic might not be available for the rest of the year, so we've got to keep finding a way, and as long as they keep playing with that spirit we'll be OK.
Simpson said exciting small forward Liam Ryan would be available for selection for next Sunday's clash against the Western Bulldogs.
Ryan booted three goals for East Perth in the WAFL on Saturday after he was involved in a car crash where he was under the influence of alcohol.