West Coast players will continue to rally around Nic Naitanui as the star ruckman deals with the emotional fallout of his mother’s death.
Naitanui was in tears following Friday night’s qualifying final win over Hawthorn, with the pain of his recent loss still clearly raw.
Teammate Will Schofield went through a similar experience in 2012 when his father died suddenly during the season.
Naitanui has been in the hottest of form over the past four weeks since returning from his mum’s funeral in Fiji.
But the tears have also flowed freely throughout that time.
Schofield said he and his teammates were doing their best to support the 2012 All-Australian.
“Nic’s going to be going through it for a while. I can empathise with him a little bit,” Schofield said on Saturday.
“It’s a tough time. To his credit, he’s getting up and playing great games of footy.
“But he’s going to be emotional – not just after footy games but during the week as well.
“We’re all behind him. He’s got a lot of support around the footy club and a lot of friends and family here as well.”
Naitanui looms as a key cog in West Coast’s charge towards a dream premiership.
Schofield said playing footy was one of the best ways to deal with tragedy.
“Footy’s a great leveller. It’s a great thing to help (you) move on.
“It’s just like another extended family having the 40 boys in the footy club.”
West Coast are the new premiership favourites following their 32-point demolition of Hawthorn.
The Eagles will now get a week off before hosting a preliminary final at Domain Stadium.
Naitanui tallied 40 hit-outs, five clearances and 12 contested possessions against the Hawks, with his work in the ruck and around the ground helping offset the loss of injured midfielder Matt Priddis.
Both Priddis and Chris Masten (hamstring) will return for the preliminary final, while star defender Jeremy McGovern will also play despite re-injuring his troublesome left shoulder against the Hawks.
McGovern battled to lift his left arm to take marks or spoil but Schofield said the 23-year-old was still a valuable asset even if he was restricted.
“You see the more experienced senior players playing through a lot of injuries. I mean Pridda plays through it most weeks,” Schofield said.
“But for Jezza to do it in a really early stage of his career – it’s really good.
“And we need him. Yeah he’s sore but he’s going ok. He played pretty well last night considering. The week off will do him well.”
Schofield, playing his first game since returning from a hamstring injury, was subbed off late against the Hawks because of tightness in the area.
But the 26-year-old pulled up well on Saturday, allaying any fears of an injury.