WEST Coast coach Adam Simpson has all but conceded forward Jack Darling and on-baller Scott Selwood will miss Round 1 of the AFL season.
Darling, 22, was given approval to increase his training levels this week as he recovers from a stress fracture in his right foot, but the Eagles boss is cautious of any possible return to playing for the athletic big man.
Selwood, 24, made a brief appearance with light running at training early this week but also appears unlikely to play any summer NAB Challenge games.
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"I'm not sure about Round 1, but they've all had good news this week," Simpson said.
"So we've got a progression that we were hoping for but it's very early days.
Simpson played down likelihood of losing two key stars with almost a full list of Eagles training this week.
Jack Darling is recovering from a right foot stress fracture. Picture: Calum Robertson Source: News Corp Australia
He denied any crisis surrounding Darling and Selwood's return.
Darling has missed just five games over his four AFL seasons while Selwood was sidelined for 10 matches last season with his ankle problem
"No, we should have around 40 training next week out of 46, which I think is a pretty healthy list," he said.
"What we've had is some players on different programs and getting everyone back onto the same page is the phase we're going through at the moment."
Gritty midfield all-rounder Mark Hutchings is another Eagle headed for a late start to the home-and-away season.
Hutchings, 23, is recovering from groin surgery.
Mark Hutchings is recovering from groin surgery. Picture: Sarah Reed Source: News Corp Australia
"Take out those three guys and we're pretty clean, it's just that those three guys are pretty important."
"It's too hard to tell and the injuries that all three of them have are all unique and everyone is different in how they recover," Simpson said.
"It's fair to say that all of them are progressing toward starting to run.
"They've just been walking for the past three months and now they can proceed to a next phase in recovery with our medical guys."
Simpson doesn't shy away from expectations that West Coast can play finals this year.
"It's tough, there's probably about eight teams in our position where there's a strong chance you'll play finals," he said.
"The difference between sixth and 10th last year wasn't much."