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Eagles star Mitchell’s race against time to run out against Hawthorn

West Coast midfield ace Sam Mitchell will have to perform heroics akin to a Grand Final week recovery to play in an emotion-charged clash with his old club Hawthorn in Melbourne on Sunday.
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The four-time premiership Hawk turned West Coast recruiting coup faces a race against time to recover from a nasty ankle injury he copped 10 minutes into the second term in the Eagles win over Sydney in Perth last Thursday.

He suffered bone bruising as well as hefty soft tissue damage in his left ankle in an accidental kick from Eagles follower Jack Redden.

It is understood the decorated Hawks superstar runs significant risk of more extensive damage to his injury if he plays on Sunday.

He would need pain-killing assistance and heavy strapping to take on his old outfit just 10 days after suffering the blow to his shin just above his ankle, and an inward twist as Mitchell tumbled to the turf.

It is the kind of desperate measures players will generally take into knockout finals and a Grand Final.

But a more conservative approach is on the cards from Eagles medical staff for a home-and-away engagement so early into a season with such a superior star and play-maker.

Mitchell was coy on his recovery progress at a media conference at Eagles headquarters on Tuesday.

“I’m not ruled out at this stage, so I’m a chance,” he said.

Mitchell claimed he would test his injury and recovery progress with training, before making a final decision on whether he will play.

West Coast and Mitchell have flagged prospects of strategic rest periods through the 34-year-old’s first Eagles season in a bid to limit expected wear and tear in balancing his playing, recovery and a far heavier travel commitment than at any other stage of his 311-game, 16-year career.

West Coast heads into Mitchell’s first ever Western Derby against bitter rivals Fremantle just six days after Sunday’s clash with the Hawks.

The Eagles then have a road trip to in-form Port Adelaide, before hosting reigning premiers Western Bulldogs back in Perth in round eight.

Despite a horrid MCG record the fifth-placed Eagles, with three wins and a loss so far this season, are widely expected to beat the Hawks who sit rock bottom without a victory and a shabby percentage of only 56.

Even if the big possession-winning and highly influential midfielder misses the Hawks clash, it seems more likely that West Coast could topple Mitchell’s former powerhouse but now beleaguered outfit.

West Coast has lost four of their last five MCG appointments including twice to the Hawks in the 2015 Grand Final by 46 points and by the same margin again in last season’s round two re-match.

The Eagles last beat the Hawks on the MCG in 2006 and since winning the flag later that year have only won six times from 23 trips to the game’s undisputed headquarters.

Mitchell is expected to take crucial steps toward whether he plays or misses the clash with his old teammates in a closed Eagles training session on Thursday, ahead of team announcements and a squad travelling to Melbourne on Friday.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson indicated on Monday he would give Mitchell every chance to prove his fitness for his big outing against the Hawks.

Mitchell could be named in a provisional 25-man squad and withdrawn ahead of bounce down.

Candidates for recall to possibly replace Mitchell will include enigmatic midfielder Lewis Jetta who was dropped for a second time this season ahead of the Sydney clash.

Jetta, 27, hit back with a dominant 38 disposals at Eagles alignment outfit East Perth along with other contenders Dom Sheed who had 24 touches in his bid for a recall and 32 possessions for Mark Hutchings.

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