The Eagles were riddled with injuries in 2012 and it seems they have been cursed yet again as West Coast faces an uphill battle to see some of its stars fit for its Round 1 derby with cross-town rivals Fremantle.
Inspirational midfielder Daniel Kerr had off-season surgery on his knee and was a good chance to play in the Eagles’ season opener until complications arose. He is now listed as three to four weeks away from playing. Ruckman Nic Naitanui is in the same boat but he is recovering from a groin injury.
It doesn’t stop there for last year’s fifth-placed finishers, with classy wingman Matt Rosa ruled out for at least six weeks after undergoing quad surgery. New recruit Sharrod Wellingham has jumped out of calculations for the Round 1 clash after a trampoline accident and will be out for at least four weeks with an ankle injury.
The Eagles have started their 2013 premiership campaign slowly and their depth will be tested. The Eagles played the majority of last season without power forward Josh Kennedy, silky midfielder Andrew Embley and goalsneaks Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski. The latter is the only player to not return to the training track during the pre-season and his season looks likely to be decimated by injury again.
Those four players only managed a combined total of 17 games last year with Nicoski and LeCras missing the entire year. In what was a major blow for the club, the return of three of these stars is a massive boost for the club’s morale. However, it’s the fallout from the pre-season injury toll that is raising major concerns.
Kerr is a massive loss for the team; he has played 210 games, is the go-to man and throws his body on the line in every contest. It will test the depth of the Eagles’ midfield; however, their midfield depth looks covered with the likes of Matt Priddis, Chris Masten, Scott Selwood, Andrew Gaff and Embley.
Nic Naitanui is another that is a big loss early on in the season. His ruck work, alongside partner in crime Dean Cox, is rated as one of the most dangerous in the league. If Cox can keep a fit body for the early part of the season, the Eagles will be able to manage their ruck department. However, Cox is 31 years old and it will be interesting to see how long his body can handle the rigours of AFL football. The Eagles do have other choices with Scott Lycett, who has played three games, or possibly rookie Callum Sinclair.
They are certainly capable of going deeper into finals than in 2012 but the Eagles need to have a reasonably empty injury room. LeCras will work in tandem with the very impressive Josh Hill and Kennedy will return to do his stuttering run-up for goal, having a great ally in Jack Darling to assist him in the goals department.
The Eagles will need to manage their players wisely this year. They tired towards the end of last year and the injury toll was raised as a possible reason as to why they failed to make the top four after such a convincing start to the year.
Injuries may have taken their toll on the club before the season has even started but it is a very long year and the Eagles have a strong chance of making the top four, even the Grand Final barring any further major injuries.