West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has been ruled out of Saturday night’s AFL clash with Hawthorn in Perth because of personal reasons.
Naitanui was withdrawn from the side on Friday night, but the nature of those personal reasons wasn’t made public by the club.
“At this time, the club cannot reveal the circumstances around Nic’s withdrawal,” West Coast said in a brief statement.
“We trust the media and fans will respect Nic’s privacy.”
Naitanui’s absence is a big blow to the Eagles in their quest to lock up a top-two berth.
The 25-year-old has been a key driver in West Coast’s hot start to the season, with his deft taps and ground-level hustling putting him in the frame for All-Australian honours.
Ruckman Scott Lycett has replaced Naitanui in the side to support Callum Sinclair in the ruck.
Meanwhile, West Coast coach Adam Simpson says it would be foolish to rely on the weather gods to boost his side’s chances of victory against Hawthorn.
Heavy rain has been forecast for Perth on Saturday, with a late thunderstorm and hail also on the cards.
Hawthorn are renowned for being one of the best-skilled sides in the competition, meaning the expected conditions could hurt their chances.
But Simpson isn’t about to do a rain dance just yet, with the former Hawks assistant knowing all too well about the numerous strengths of the defending champions.
“Hawthorn have been the best in the comp for a long time,” Simpson said on Friday.
“I think you would be foolish to think they are (only) a good kicking side and that’s all you need to stop.
“They are well balanced in a lot of areas. All I know is they will come out pretty hungry.”
The blockbuster clash at Domain Stadium will go a long way towards deciding second spot.
The Eagles are six points ahead of the Hawks.
But should West Coast lose to Hawthorn and Fremantle in consecutive weeks, the Hawks will be in the box seat to secure a top-two berth.
West Coast haven’t featured in the finals since 2012 and Simpson says the next fortnight will be a huge test for how his young squad handles the big occasions.
“We haven’t been in this position for a few years, so we’re excited about that,” Simpson said.
“We know what’s at stake this week.
“We’re not worried about the game. We’re not concerned that we can’t win or anything like that.
“We’re excited to confront the best team in the competition and to throw the kitchen sink at them.”
Hawthorn’s eight-match winning streak was brought to an abrupt end last week in a shock 18-point loss to Richmond.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said his players were desperate to make up for that defeat.
“Nearly to a man, we were below our best last week,” Clarkson told reporters at Melbourne airport.
“I think it’s blatantly obvious that anyone who loses a game of footy, they’ve got a bit of a sting in their tail and want to make amends the following week.
“We lick our wounds.
“If that’s our downer, hopefully it’s a good thing and we can get on with it this week.”