West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy says he won’t rush back for the season opener against premiership fancies Sydney at Optus Stadium unless he is ready.
The dual Coleman medallist has had surgery over summer to take some bone from an ankle that caused discomfort last year.
Speaking at the WA launch of an XBlades “Golden Ticket” competition yesterday — where purchasers of the brand of football boots Kennedy wears can win a training session with an AFL or rugby star if they find one of four golden tickets inside a boot, Kennedy said getting himself right was more important than rushing back.
He remained optimistic about playing in round one against the Swans on March 25 but said his ability to increase training loads over the next three weeks would decide his availability.
“If I pull up well from today, then Saturday will be a bigger session and so on,” Kennedy said.
“Over the next two or three weeks we will have a bit of a gauge on that, but if we need an extra two or three weeks we are going to take it. Playing the whole year is more important than playing the first game.
“Hopefully it will be the early rounds. If it is not round one then hopefully round two or three. I would love to be able to play round one.
“There is so much buzz around the first game at the new stadium, but the ankle will tell.”
Small forward Willie Rioli trained solidly yesterday with his left knee strapped in a bid to prove his fitness for Sunday morning’s scratch match against Fremantle at Subiaco Oval.
Assistant coach Daniel Pratt said swelling on the knee from a kick sustained in AFLX two weeks ago had been holding Rioli back, but he was hoping to get him on the field alongside small forward Liam Ryan.
“There is a no-risk policy with guys like that at this time of the year,” Pratt said.
“It would be great to have them both in the forward line together.
“It depends on how we structure up this week.”
Pratt said there were as many as eight West Coast youngsters pressing for berths in round one against Sydney.
Midfielders Daniel Venables and Brayden Ainsworth were in the mix, along with defender Francis Watson and forward Jake Waterman.