WEST Coast premiership defender Liam Duggan is preparing to play a midfield role early in 2021 as star teammate Elliot Yeo faces an uphill battle to be fit for the season opener.
Yeo has continued his stop-start recovery from osteitis pubis and coach Adam Simpson confirmed on Wednesday the gun onballer was "more unlikely than likely" to face Gold Coast on March 21.
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The big-bodied Duggan has been moved into the midfield in the past two weeks in preparation for a call-up and impressed in the role, making him a likely replacement in Yeo's critical role if needed.
"We pushed him up there just in case, and we drafted him as a midfielder," Simpson said on Wednesday.
"He's been training with the mids for the last two weeks and has definitely impressed a lot of people. He's ready to step up."
Duggan, 24, emerged from isolation after the Christmas break to impress immediately in match simulation work and has been a pre-season standout alongside midfielder Dom Sheed.
Frontline midfielders Luke Shuey (calf) and Andrew Gaff (tight quad) have missed recent sessions with minor injuries, however, giving the Eagles the chance to expose more players to the midfield in training.
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Simpson said the club was still positive Yeo would be available early in the season after opting for an extended period of rest last year to recover from his groin injury, rather than undergoing surgery.
The star 27-year-old underwent a period of rest in November after experiencing soreness in his recovery and the Eagles have had a "symptom-based" approach to his progression.
He is not yet doing change of direction work six months after playing his last game, against Carlton in round 11 last season.
"His progression is coming along. It's still pretty slow though. He's still touch and go for round one," Simpson said.
"We're not ruling it out today, but it's looking more unlikely than likely.
"We're still quite positive we're going to get a result in the early part of the year."
The Eagles are in discussions with Fremantle about the details of a practice match around their respective AAMI Community Series matches.
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West Coast faces Port Adelaide at Leederville Oval on March 7, while the Dockers face Adelaide at Fremantle Oval on March 6.
"There will be some sort of scrimmage," Simpson said.
"We'll do that in the next few weeks. We're working through that (and) trying to find out where both our lists are at.
"We're communicating with Freo and come up with something that suits both of us."
Simpson was confident champion forward Josh Kennedy would be available for the AAMI Community Series clash against the Power after a minor calf niggle.
Defender Jackson Nelson and speedster Jack Petruccelle have suffered low-end hamstring strains in the past week face a fortnight of light training before the build-up to round one.
Ruckman Callum Jamieson is on light duties after experiencing "awareness" in the pubic bone area and walked laps on Wednesday.