WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson concedes he faces a balancing act bringing his injured stars back into the team as the Eagles prepare for more casualties out of Sunday's record loss to Melbourne.
The Eagles expect captain Luke Shuey and experienced midfielder Andrew Gaff to return against Greater Western Sydney next Sunday, while champion forward Josh Kennedy (knee soreness) and premiership captain Shannon Hurn (calf) will push to play.
Star forward Liam Ryan is in doubt, however, due to both a hamstring complaint and a high bump on Demon Jake Bowey that will draw match review scrutiny, while young defender Luke Foley will miss because of concussion.
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Melbourne premiership midfielder James Harmes will also require scans after suffering hamstring tightness, with the Demons hopeful he will be available for next Saturday's clash against North Melbourne.
Simpson said the Eagles would work through how best to bring their senior players back, with the club now in rebuild mode after a 1-8 start to the season.
"At the moment we don't have anyone available, so if someone is available it's hard not to play them in the seniors … (but) we don't want to set them up to fail," the coach said.
"Someone like Elliot (Yeo), he's played one-and-a-half games all year, he's gone into COVID protocols, he's gone into isolation, he's coming off two weeks of concussion.
"Gaffy's half a chance. It was a slight quad issue last week and he trained on Saturday. Luke Shuey will be available.
"There might be two or three we get back next week, but we might lose a couple from today as well."
The Eagles' availability crisis led the club to borrow opposition players for its WAFL clash against East Fremantle at the weekend, and Simpson confirmed the proposition of Port Adelaide forward Charlie Dixon playing for the club's reserves team had been raised.
Dixon is returning from an ankle injury and could not push his case for senior selection with the Power in the SANFL due to a State-league bye.
"I think it was mentioned, but I don't think it got any traction as the right thing to do for the WAFL. I think it was a bit too difficult," Simpson said.
"We're going through a fair bit at the moment as a club and it's something we weren't in a position to deal with."
Sunday's 74-point loss was a record losing margin against undefeated Melbourne and marked the club's worst start to a season since 1989. Their final score of 5.8 (38) was their lowest ever at home in 36 years.
With transport issues on Sunday playing a role in the disappointing crowd figure of just 27,488, Simpson hoped fans would stick by the team this season.
"One thing I do know is we've had some really good periods as a footy club and we're coming out of a really good era," the coach said.
"I really hope our fans stick by us in challenging times. We really appreciate their support. I know it's been disappointing so far this year, but we like their support, we appreciate the crowds."
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said he understood the Eagles' availability issues, but the Demons had no issues remaining motivated for the clash at their 2021 premiership venue.
The ladder leaders dominated the opening quarter, booting six unanswered goals and dominating the forward entries 20-4, but they booted just three goals across the second and third quarters.
"We respect every opposition we come up against every week and it's the same every week. We have a team that competes unconditionally all the time," the coach said.
"That's what I like about our playing group and what makes it hard for us to play against.
"The shape of the game was in really good shape for us and we know we are a side that will eventually wear sides down and we'll get opportunities at some stage.
"Our look at the game was in the first quarter and the last quarter and we walked away with a really strong performance."