View Comments
Freo need to solve Pies running riddle
West Coast Eagle Nic Naitanui chases down Collingwood's Harry O'Brien. Picture: Getty Images.

Collingwood’s frenetic running patterns at the cauldron-like MCG will hit Fremantle with confronting force this Saturday, according to West Coast star Nic Naitanui.

The Eagles came within a three-point breath of beating the Magpies last Saturday, but Naitanui said their powerful running ability often created a confusion that the Dockers will need to master to score a shock victory.

Naitanui, who echoed vice-captain Beau Waters’ weekend assertion that West Coast could win this year’s flag, said the brilliance of players such as Dane Swan, Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom was sometimes irrepressible.

“They’ve just got a great midfield,” Naitanui, who broke his nose against Collingwood, said.

“Even the young guys who have come in, they’re all real professional and fill a role. They just do it real well and they know the 'G' pretty well because they’re always there and don’t travel as much.

“When they start kicking two or three goals, they do spread very well. Their burst players are so powerful one way and they just take off.

“It’s frustrating because you want to cover this bloke and that bloke and then you have the ruckmen to worry about. It’s amazing to watch and they’re pretty skilful players, too.”

West Coast’s clash with Collingwood attracted a club record home-and-away crowd of 62,957 fans and Naitanui said the almost rabid Magpies supporters created an intimidating atmosphere.

“It was so noisy,” he said.

“At Subi (Patersons Stadium) you can hear the roar of the crowd, but it was just so loud and when someone is getting close to holding the ball, you just hear one big, massive noise. It’s an amazing feeling and to think they play in front of that sort of crowd week-in, week-out is something I wish we had.

“You want it and you want it every week. I wish we could play there again this week.”

Waters claimed at the weekend that the major hurdle between West Coast and the club’s fourth premiership was themselves.

Naitanui, who said his age was no longer an excuse against the best ruckmen in the competition, was disappointed with his own performance against the Magpies.

But he agreed with Waters that taking premiership favourites Collingwood to the wire had instilled an even stronger confidence in the team that this year’s flag was there for the taking in an even competition.

“Definitely,” he said.

“I think last year we kind of stunned ourselves and then we thought, we can do this. Back then, we were coming from the bottom and had a long way to go and this year we’re thinking, ’Why not’.

“Everyone’s pretty even and we’re seeing everyone beat everyone. Last year, versing Collingwood, we got pumped by 50 or 60 points (52 points) in the middle of the year, now we’re only losing by three points, so why can’t we win it.

“To know we can match them at this time of year does put us in good stead towards the end of the year. Everyone’s really excited and hurting each other at training because they want to be in the side.

“The guys who are injured are working real hard as well because they’re thinking it could be their one and only chance to win a premiership.

“I reckon we could do it.”