Informed sources have indicated that the dreadlocked Eagles cult hero could miss significantly more than the opening round of the new AFL season.
Naitanui managed just one walking lap of an estimated 2km course at spacious McGillivray Oval in Perth’s western suburbs on Friday.
He was then limited to a five-minute stationary handball drill before departing Eagles training and not sighted again.
The reigning All-Australian lead ruckman still has an appreciable limp in his gait, even at a casual walking pace.
Naitanui had groin surgery in late November after Eagles medical and conditioning staff elected to rest and recuperate the star big man in an attempt to overcome his injury.
The powerhouse young ruck star conceded after West Coast bowed out of last year’s premiership hunt in a losing semi-final to Collingwood at the MCG, that he had nursed an aggravating groin injury for almost the entire second half of the season.
He is now in a desparate race against time to be back into full running within a month and then cram in sufficient ball-handling and match simulation training to make a determined assault at making it back for the start of the premiership season.
Any appearances in the summer series NAB competition look out of his recovery equation.
Naitanui, 22, now looks more than likely to miss the season opener with West Coast having a full fortnight to recover from a likely gruelling derby on March 23, before the Eagles confront power outfit Hawthorn in Round 2 at home on Sunday April 7.
The AFL launches the 2013 premiership qualifying series with a stretched opening fixture starting on Friday March 22 and concluding on Easter Monday April 1 when the Hawks clash with modern-day nemesis Geelong at the MCG.
West Coast recruited mature-age and former VFL ruckman Callum Sinclair through the December rookie draft, but Eagles management at the time claimed the move was not as important insurance against Naitanui missing early chunks of the new premiership campaign.
Eagles football staff appear to have escalated importance of emerging ruckman-forward Scott Lycett.
The 2010 second round draft pick is understood to have spent plenty of time working in close tandem with veteran ruck star Dean Cox in the absence of Naitanui from full match-conditioning and game-day simulation training drills.
West Coast training has been buoyed though with impressive early performances from star forward Mark LeCras, who missed the entire season last year after he snapped his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a freak training accident back in February.
LeCras, 26, is back in full training after the 2010 All-Australian forward and Eagles fairest-and-best winner made a shock but desparate bid to play in last season’s finals with the strength and confidence he had generated through a successful rehabilitation.
Champion on-ball veteran Daniel Kerr was also approaching a return to training with the full Eagles squad as he completed a series of explosive prolonged running exercises and some sharp in-close ball-handling drills.