West Coast ruckman Scott Lycett has urged Eagles fans to be patient with Nic Naitanui, saying it will take the former All-Australian some time to regain his top form.
Naitanui missed all of last year after undergoing a knee reconstruction, and he is yet to play a game this pre-season.
The 2012 All-Australian is a chance to line up for West Coast in their pre-season match against Fremantle on March 11.
If he misses that, he could struggle to prove his fitness in time for the round-one clash with Sydney on March 25.
Lycett has been training with Naitanui in recent weeks, and said the star ruckman was progressing well.
"I played against him during the week in some match sim, and his touch was pretty good," Lycett said.
"You could definitely see all the signs were there of the player he was when he was at his best.
"I'm confident he can get back to it. It might take a bit of time.
"People need to be patient. People expect him to be at his best straight away, because he is Nic Nat. But he's human, and just like anyone it's going to take a bit of time for him to get confidence."
If Naitanui makes a successful return from knee surgery, it will leave Lycett and Nathan Vardy in a battle for the second ruck spot.
Lycett managed just one game last season after being cut down by two serious shoulder injuries.
The 25-year-old is now fit and eyeing off a permanent berth in West Coast's side for 2018.
"Vards and myself have been smashing each other in training all summer. We're definitely both putting our hands up for that position," Lycett said.
"All pre-season we've been working really well together.
"There's been some sessions where he's got on top of me, and some sessions where I've got on top of him.
"It's only going to make us play better. This summer, we've pushed each other to a whole new level. It's definitely healthy competition."
The Eagles have organised an extra match for their pre-season campaign - against the Dockers at Subiaco Oval this Sunday.
The match will be closed to the public.
The extra game means the Dockers and Eagles will face each other twice during the pre-season.
West Coast started their season on a bright note with a two-point win over Port Adelaide on Sunday.