WEST Coast star Elliot Yeo won't be available for the Eagles' season opener against Gold Coast as coach Adam Simpson prepares to get the rest of his best team primed just in time for round one.
Yeo has endured a frustrating rehabilitation from osteitis pubis after his 2020 campaign was cut short in September, with the Eagles opting to send him for an extended period of rest instead of surgery.
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The 27-year-old, who last played in round 11 last season, has not joined full training this summer and has needed to pull back his training loads several times as the Eagles took a symptoms-based approach to his rehabilitation.
Simpson had been hopeful the dual John Worsfold medallist would be able to ramp up his training and put his hand up for round one, but conceded that was now unrealistic 19 days out from the season opener against Gold Coast on March 21.
"He won't be round one, but he'll hopefully be in the early part of the year," Simpson told AFL.com.au.
"If he's not training with the main group now it's probably not going to happen.
"With the pre-season, you used to start in November so you'd have this chronic load where you could miss a few weeks and then just get back into it.
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"You miss a few weeks now and you've got to rebuild your fitness because you're not quite there yet."
West Coast made the decision to end Yeo's 2020 season early and rule him out for their finals campaign in the hope he would be primed for 2021 after an extended period of rest.
The two-time All Australian is a difficult player to replace in the Eagles' engine room, but his absence in round one will be somewhat covered by the emergence of premiership defender Liam Duggan as a midfielder.
"We drafted him as a midfielder (but) he now has the attributes of a defender … there's a good balance there and he's actually improved our midfield," Simpson said.
"His evolution the last three or four weeks has been really, really good. We'll give him every chance and either way he's in our side. It's just whether it's midfield or down back."
Yeo is the only major injury the Eagles are managing, but several star players have had recent interruptions that will see them pushing to be match ready just in time for the season opener at Optus Stadium.
Star ruckman Nic Naitanui (hamstring), champion forward Josh Kennedy (calf) and star midfielder Tim Kelly (broken thumb) all missed Saturday's scratch match against Fremantle, with Kennedy in doubt for this Sunday's AAMI Community Series clash.
Simpson said the short-term nature of the injuries meant the important trio would be able to get to the line for round one, but he expected all clubs would be peaking just in time.
"We're in a good space. Mentally and physically there's been some readjustments, new focuses, new players, and the shorter pre-season is different for everyone," the coach said.
"What used to happen in January/February you would get everyone on the track, get everyone fit and ready to go, and quite often you're ready a month before you should be, then you taper a little bit.
"Now across the board I think every club is trying to peak at the right time and if you have a little stumble, you're not going to be ready.
"Most of our guys that have had little niggles are going to be fine … luckily we've dodged a few bullets with that. (But) we probably won't come together until round one."