The West

Nic and I are huge headaches: Cox
West Coast Eagles ruckman Dean Cos. Picture: AFL Media.

West Coast star Dean Cox says he and Nic Naitanui are as healthy as they have been for most of the season and are determined to provide headaches for any team which picks only one specialist ruckman.

Both have carried injuries in the second half of the season but they were back to their best against Collingwood on Saturday night, winning the hit-outs 60-12 against Cameron Wood and Chris Dawes.

Hawthorn must decide whether to recall Max Bailey for Friday night's clash at the MCG or ask David Hale to shoulder the work-load against Cox and Naitanui with forward Jarryd Roughead as back-up. Bailey would give the Hawks extra height, but he doesn't win a lot of the ball.

Having not missed a game since 2009, Cox said the club had been careful to ease his workload at training in recent weeks after an ankle injury left him sore. Naitanui had also suffered a flat period during the year and Cox said they had felt the impact of a long season.

But with September approaching, Cox said they were fresh now and ready to fire.

"In the last month, we've really monitored our training loads to try and get our bodies as fresh as possible coming into the finals," Cox said.

"I've played every game and Nic's missed a couple. It just a matter of trying to stay mentally and physically fresh. We're sharing the load.

"We're not required to do 80 or 90 contests per game. Hopefully it's a big advantage.

"But having said that, Hale is in fantastic form and Roughead, when he goes in there, really competes well, wins his share of hit-outs and also is dangerous around the ground. That's worked really well for them.

"We have to make sure we have that impact in the ruck and hit the scoreboard when we go forward."

Naitanui reminded everyone of his athletic ability with four contested marks, 17 contested possessions and 1.3 against the Pies.

He jumped over packs, took an amazing one-handed mark, weaved through traffic and in one passage of play left Harry O'Brien behind with a devastating display of aggression and pace.

"It's fantastic. He's got the confidence to take blokes on and he fends blokes off," Cox said. "He's really exciting. When he hunts the footy he's certainly at his best."

Cox paid tribute to West Coast's midfield, which thrashed Collingwood in clearances and contested possessions. Daniel Kerr was best on ground with 36 possessions, 12 clearances and 1.1, while Luke Shuey and Matt Priddis continued their fantastic seasons.

Cox said Kerr always stepped up when it mattered.

"He's a fantastic reader of the footy," Cox said. "He's really determined and is one of the best players that I've seen when there is a big game and our side needs a lift."

"We've really monitored our training loads to try and get our bodies as fresh as possible."" Eagles ruckman *Dean Cox *

The West Australian

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