WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson is hopeful ruckman Nic Naitanui will be available to play next week against Port Adelaide after being subbed from the game during the third quarter against Geelong on Saturday night.
The star ruckman had just six disposals and six hit-outs in two-and-a-half quarters of football before being removed from the ground because of "a bit of soreness".
He appeared to have a lower leg injury but Simpson said post-game he took Naitanui off as a precaution.
Five talking points: Geelong v West Coast
"We just subbed him off halfway through the third," Simpson said. "He was a little tight but we didn't see any reason to keep him out there."
The game was well and truly over as a contest when he was taken from the game but when asked whether Naitanui would be fit to play Port Adelaide next week Simpson sounded more hopeful than optimistic.
"I don't know. I think so. It was a precautionary thing," Simpson said.
The Eagles lost key players Darren Glass, Luke Shuey, Chris Masten and Mark LeCras at selection on Thursday and then Matt Rosa was a late withdrawal with a bout of gastro.
Simpson expects Glass and Masten to be fit for next week and Shuey will be available after serving a one-week suspension.
Although Simpson conceded Geelong overwhelmed the undermanned Eagles he said there were plenty of lessons his youngsters could gain from the loss.
After four goals in the first quarter, the Eagles managed just seven behinds in the final three quarters and conceded 12 unanswered goals.
"The harder we tried to win the ball on the inside the more they got outside balance on us. It was a difficult night but we learned so much," Simpson said. "They're a top four side. We had a young crew over – [It's] no excuse but they will learn a lot from tonight."
At some point Simpson became less concerned about the scoreboard and more concerned with assessing what his players were offering in the contest.
He said the coaches were chasing their tails trying to find solutions.
It was no wonder. If one problem was addressed, another just reared its ugly head.
That experience, said Simpson, would stand the coaches in good stead too.
He admitted to being disappointed with the second quarter – when Geelong kicked 6.1 to the Eagles' one behind - but thought his players battled it out in the second half.
In the end however, the coach's assessment was blunt and to the point.
"We were undersized and bullied," Simpson said.
Despite the setback the Eagles are in a reasonable position with three wins in the bank.
"[I'm] still pretty positive about where we're heading," Simpson said.