Eagles stand by Nic Nat
Eagles stand by Nic Nat

West Coast coach Adam Simpson has promised to “back” ruckman Nic Naitanui in, giving him a clean bill of health and offering him time to find his best form.

Naitanui, under a fitness cloud ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Port Adelaide after being subbed out of last weekend’s defeat at Geelong, has had just 40 possessions in four matches this season to face the first serious questions about form of his career.

Simpson said the athletic ruckman’s fitness was not a concern and it was a kick in the Achilles tendon that had forced him out of the clash with the Cats.

“He came up pretty well,” he said. “He got a bit of a knock to the back of the leg so it is not his groins or anything like that. He had a few scans and he is right to play.”

Simpson said he appreciated the public interest in Naitanui and his form, but warned that the big man would need time to find form and confidence after a series of interrupted pre-seasons.

“It is not just one pre-season, I would say it is three,” he said. “Everyone is different but the type of player that he is, such a power athlete, to have confidence in your body is the first step and he is still getting that.”

“I think he is a good player and people want to know what is gong on. I respect that.”

“We will back him in. We will see how he goes tomorrow. We expect a bit of an improvement.”

The Eagles gave a vote of confidence in Naitanui’s capacity to get through a match by reducing their number of ruckmen for this game from three to two, with Scott Lycett one of five omissions from the loss to Geelong.

Simpson said it was also in part, an acknowledgement of the need to match Port Adelaide’s running power. Chris Masten, Matt Rosa, Luke Shuey, Mark Huchings and skipper Darren Glass were recalled at the expense of Brant Colledge, Lycett, Will Schofield, Sam Butler and Pat McGinnity.

“We are obviously aware of opposition strengths and they bat pretty deep in the midfield and we thought we would explore what we could do with an extra mid,” he said.

“It is one of the opportunities we can do. With the fact that we have got Cox and Nic playing in the ruck division we don’t think we lose too much. Obviously we are still trying to manage Nic and what he is trying to do. But we feel that with where he is at we can get away with the two rucks.”

The West Australian

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