WEST Coast won't be tempted to bring back marquee man Nic Naitanui for Thursday night's clash with Essendon, with coach Adam Simpson confirming the star ruckman will return via the WAFL on Saturday.
Naitanui's comeback game after 343 days on the sidelines recovering from his second knee reconstruction will be for the Eagles' reserves side at East Fremantle's home ground on Saturday at 11.40am.
The hype around his return has seen the bouncedown brought forward so the game can be broadcast in Perth by Channel Seven.
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Key defender Tom Barrass is also understood to be a chance to line up against the Sharks in his first match since round four coming back from foot surgery.
There will be a sense of déjà vu for Naitanui at East Fremantle after making his last comeback at the same venue in March last year, following more than 18 months recovering from his left knee reconstruction.
Appearing in a practice match for former WAFL alignment partner East Perth, he played 54 minutes, won 33 hitouts and picked up 14 touches, before running out in the first AFL game at Optus Stadium against Sydney 15 days later.
"We went down a similar path last year and that set him up pretty well for the start of the season," Simpson told Channel Seven.
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If Naitanui gets through this comeback unscathed the Eagles could have a decision to make whether to take their most valuable asset to face Hawthorn at the MCG off a seven-day break – although Simpson hinted that was likely.
"He'll play this week, he won't play seniors, though, he'll play at WAFL level. He needs to get some minutes up, tick off the last box before he comes back to seniors next week," Simpson said.
Otherwise, the out-of-contract 29-year-old, who has a three-year deal on the table from West Coast, could be primed for a blockbuster 50th Western Derby on Saturday, July 6.
The Dockers' home derby shapes as one of the biggest crosstown clashes in years with both clubs vying for September.
The Eagles are also a chance to equal the record nine-game winning streak against their arch-rivals.
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Coming off the bye, West Coast will make at least two changes against Essendon, with big man Nathan Vardy and small forward Willie Rioli both suspended for rough conduct following the 45-point loss to Sydney.
Emerging tall Oscar Allen (ankle) is likely to replace Vardy, while premiership skipper Shannon Hurn (hamstring) and dual club champion Elliot Yeo (calf) are in line to return.
"We missed both those guys last week. Both leaders of the club and probably the best two players for the season so far," Simpson said.
"We think they'll get through training as well and they'll definitely be playing if they get through training."