Naitanui, 22, is recovering from groin surgery in November and could miss up to eight weeks into the new premiership campaign.
While West Coast insiders are hopeful the big enforcer will make a speedy recovery, it appears certain the hulking star will at least miss the season opener against staunch rivals Fremantle in Perth on March 23.
Naitanui also looks likely to miss a Round 2 blockbuster with raging premiership favourites Hawthorn.
Eagles’ medical projections are believed to consider a “worst case scenario” for the brilliant big ruckman is to resume around Round 8 in mid-May.
West Coast is listed as third premiership favourite with numerous national betting agencies at around $8 behind Hawthorn at $4.50 and reigning title-holders Sydney at $7.
Rapidly rising prospects that the influential Naitanui could miss a substantial portion of early games is likely to send a ripple through premiership betting markets and an adjustment to West Coast title hopes.
Naitanui managed just a walk of about 2km at a casual pace around a large training park in Perth’s western suburbs in his first really public training appearance this month before a brief stationary handball drill and disappearing.
He is on a planned recovery program after surgery that was originally ruled out at the conclusion of West Coast’s 2012 premiership tilt which ended with a semi-final loss to Collingwood at the MCG.
It had been expected that rest and recuperation could mend Naitanui’s groin trouble from September until he resumed training in November after eight weeks from his final game.
Naitanui played much of the second half of the season nursing his nagging groin problem after the imposing ruck star carried an agonising shoulder injury through much of the 2011 campaign.
He had shoulder surgery immediately after 2011.
Eagles’ football management and medical team are expected to adopt an especially cautious and conservative approach with the reigning All-Australian lead ruckman.
The cult figure ruck force is tipped to only start light running before the end of January and may not resume full training until well into March approaching the verge of the new season.
It is understood that Eagles medical and conditioning staff have already ruled the powerhouse ruck star out of playing in the NAB Cup summer series before the opening premiership rounds.
At best and if Naitanui advances his recovery schedule he could resume in Round 2 against a star-studded Hawks.
After a potentially emotion-charged derby against Fremantle, the Eagles then host Hawthorn a fortnight later after the AFL opening round stretches across two weekends finishing on Easter Monday of April 1.
Naitanui has played 77 senior games and missed just four outings in the past three seasons as the high-leaping and athletic powerhouse has emerged as one of the most influential and durable stoppages exponents in the unforgiving AFL.
He was a somewhat surprise choice in his first All-Australian team last year sharing ruck duties with champion ruck star and teammate Dean Cox.
Naitanui polled 10 Brownlow Medal votes last season, but did not finish in West Coast’s top 10 in fairest-and-best voting for 2012.
Cox, 31, won his sixth All-Australian selection in a unique tandem with the imposing Naitanui.
West Coast recruited former VFL and WAFL ruckman-forward Callum Sinclair through the December rookie draft as fears mounted that Naitanui could miss early season engagements.
Cox has also been training in close unity with 2010 second round ruckman-forward draftee Scott Lycett.
Lycett, 20, has managed three games in the shadow of Cox and Naitanui during his two seasons on the strong West Coast list.