West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has revealed he was nursing a freshly-broken nose when he kicked the match-winning goal against GWS.
Naitanui’s left-foot goal with just seconds remaining on the clock lifted the Eagles to a dramatic one-point AFL win on enemy territory on Saturday.
The result has revived West Coast’s top-four hopes ahead of Friday night’s crunch clash with Hawthorn at Domain Stadium.
Naitanui played a key role in the win, but he was forced to the bench with just minutes remaining after copping an accidental whack to the nose from GWS ruckman Shane Mumford.
Luckily, West Coast’s medical staff were able to stem the bleeding in time for Naitanui to return for the match-winning moment.
“The big Mummy broke my nose again. I’ve broken my nose twice this year,” Naitanui said on Monday.
“So I had to come off and get that cleaned up, and make sure I didn’t drip at the end.
“I guess when you’re Fijian, you’re born with a big nose, so you’re always going to get hit at some stage. I’ve just been unfortunate to get hit twice. It affects your breathing.
“It’s something you need to get fixed up at the end of the year. It’ll be right for the rest of the season.”
Although Naitanui was the one who kicked the match-winning goal, it’s been a different player who has claimed hero status at the club over the past few days.
“Josh Hill calls himself the hero because he kicked the behind that put us in position to kick the (winning) goal,” Naitanui joked.
Whether West Coast’s win is a turning point – or merely a false dawn – remains to be seen.
Naitanui desperately wants the team to push on with the job, saying the win has increased everyone’s belief about what they can achieve this season.
Unfortunately for West Coast, their top-four destiny isn’t in their own hands.
Even if the sixth-placed Eagles beat Hawthorn and Adelaide (away) in the next two weeks, they’ll still need to rely on some upsets in other games in order to burst into the top four.
Meanwhile, Naitanui says Eagles players will embrace Fremantle goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne if he ends up being traded to the club.
Ballantyne has requested a trade away from the Dockers, and it’s believed West Coast are high on his wish list.
Trades between West Coast and Fremantle have been rare over the years.
But Naitanui says irrespective of where players come from, they’re always embraced once they become an Eagle.
“It’s a tough thing coming from one side of Perth to the other, no matter who you are,” Naitanui said.
“It would be tough. But I guess any player who comes from another team – we had Lewis Jetta, Jack Redden, Xavier Ellis – they’ll be embraced if they do so.”