Tom Nicholls is in severe doubt to play West Coast next weekend after aggravating a knee injury against Carlton on Saturday.

The Gold Coast ruckman hobbled off in the first half and despite making a belated bid to play on after the main break, was subbed out by Jacob Gillbee early in the third quarter.

SUNS coach Guy McKenna said Nicholls had been struggling with knee bursitis for a couple of weeks.

This was the first time it had flared during a match.

The injury cloud already has McKenna scratching his head ahead of the Eagles match, where he expects Dean Cox to be partnered by either the returning Nic Naitanui or Scott Lycett.

With Zac Smith (knee) already out for the season, and Nicholls in doubt, it would leave a gaping hole in the SUNS ruck stocks.

Dan Gorringe (who played in the reserves on Saturday) and Charlie Dixon would be the likely combination if Nicholls did not come up.

"We'll certainly be going in with two rucks on a ground that's 175m long, we'll be going in with two fit ones," McKenna said.

Dixon was one of few highlights for the SUNS on Saturday, racking up 17 disposals, taking six marks (four contested) and kicking two goals in his return from an ankle injury.

It was just his second game since first sustaining the problem in round six.

McKenna said Gold Coast would have to be mindful of Dixon's workload over the remaining five rounds.

"We love him because he competes so hard. He's a pretty important piece of our puzzle," McKenna said.

"We know he can ruck, but his ability to take contested marks which we haven't had a lot of (is outstanding).

"It's going to be a big job for him to finish off the rest of the year because he's had eight weeks off his legs. His heart and ability to compete will get him across the line."

McKenna said he was pleased with the effort against Carlton, but a lack of polish and the non-availability of midfielders Dion Prestia (hamstring) and David Swallow (knee) were costly.