Naitanui debut lives up to the hype
Wednesday, June 17 2009 @ 07:31 pm ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
The West Coast Eagles' Fijian-Australian recruit, Nic Naitanui, made an impressive debut last Saturday night at Etihad Stadium. Although the Eagles lost to Richmond (beware the club that has just replaced its coach), Naitanui was very useful in ruck and in the forward line.
Taken at number two in last year's draft, the big Fijian had injury concerns to overcome before finally playing his first AFL match. His athleticism was undoubted, but the question was whether he would also have the footy skills and smarts, particularly as he is relatively new to Australian football and was not prolific in statistics in lower grades thus far.
But Naitanui quickly showed what made him so sought after and has sent the Western Bulldogs to Fiji in search of similar talent. His leap at the centre bounces gave him a distinct advantage, but equally impressive was his second efforts to gain the ground ball, and his use of his height to keep his arms clear of a tackle and feed out handballs. He finished with 3 kicks, 8 handballs, 3 marks and 7 hitouts. To cap off the show he took a screamer, jumping atop three Richmond defenders to bring down a spectacular mark. Although his shot on goal hit the post it was still a fine performance. He moved and handled the ball differently to any other AFL player, and at 201 cm, with dark skin and long dreadlocks, he stands out from the crowd and is an instant cult hero.