West Coast ruckman Dean Cox has been guaranteed a return for next week’s derby with Fremantle, but his future beyond this AFL season remains up in the air.
Cox will miss Sunday’s clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, with the Eagles opting to extend his rest by a further week.
The 32-year-old’s future has been a hot topic all week, especially after the impressive display of understudy Scott Lycett in last week’s win over Gold Coast.
Lycett tallied 16 possessions, 18 hitouts and one goal in that match, with the South Australian making the most of a rare appearance in Eagles colours.
The 21-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season, and he could decide to leave West Coast if Cox extends his career into a 15th season.
Callum Sinclair, who has slipped to fourth in the ruck pecking order, could also seek opportunities elsewhere.
West Coast great Glen Jakovich floated the idea of Cox playing as a back-up ruckman next year to allow Lycett and Sinclair greater opportunities.
The Eagles have already lost skipper Darren Glass to retirement this year, but Cox is determined to play until the end of the season before making a call on his future.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson admitted it was a tough job ensuring Nic Naitanui, Cox, Lycett and Sinclair all received ample opportunities.
“We want to give opportunity to all four. The balancing act is quite difficult,” Simpson said on Friday.
“We don’t think we’re losing too much with any of those players, so that’s a really good problem to have.
“But it’s (about) giving them opportunity and also respecting Dean with where he’s at as well.
“He’s obviously a legend of the club and a legend of the game. We’re just managing him in the right way.”
Simpson said the decision to rest Cox for a fortnight was based on getting him cherry ripe for next week’s season-defining clash with Fremantle.
Cox had played 104 games in a row before being rested.
“It’s a six-day break after the St Kilda game so we thought we’d get him right for Fremantle,” Simpson said.
“He looked a bit sore a few weeks ago and a bit heavy in the legs so we think the freshen-up will be really good for him.”
The Eagles, reviving their slim finals hopes with victory last week, are expected to make it two wins in a row against a St Kilda team who have lost their past seven games.