Eagles support for under-fire Naitanui
Eagles support for under-fire Naitanui

Sharrod Wellingham said teammates at West Coast will rally around Nic Naitanui in the wake of fresh criticism over the young ruckman’s form this year.

Naitanui was substituted out of Saturday night’s heavy loss to Geelong during the third term after suffering a suspected ankle injury.

He had accumulated just six disposals to that point to add to a modest record from the first four rounds of 2014 coming off an interrupted pre-season.

Critics have called for Naitanui to be dropped even if he does prove his fitness, but Wellingham stressed the dynamic ruckman was an influential member of the side.

“I love having Nic out there,” Wellingham said.

“He’s an imposing figure on the field. I hope he’s out there.

“He was All-Australian only a year ago, so I don’t think he’s highly overrated.

“He had a tough year last year and we’re only four games into the season.

“I think he’s probably just copping a little bit … Nic might just come out and destroy the game this week. You just never know.

“It’s probably just a little bit tough on him. The boys will definitely get around him and hopefully he’s able to step up this week.”

Wellingham said a lot of factors had not gone right for West Coast in the build-up to the loss in Geelong.

Luke Shuey was suspended, Darren Glass (hip), Mark LeCras (broken arm) and Chris Masten (hamstring) all dropped out through injury and Matt Rosa was ruled out before bouncedown after suffering from a virus.

“A lot of boys went down in the week prior and then a few of the boys being a bit sick,” Wellingham said.

“But we had 22 blokes out there on the night and we just weren’t up to it. We got beaten on the inside, we got beaten on the outside and we just weren’t hard enough.”

The West Australian

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