Todd Goldstein’s key to preparing for the most anticipated clash of this weekend’s AFL preliminary finals is focus on himself first and Nic Naitanui second.
Four days after Goldstein was named an All Australian for the first time, the North Melbourne ruckman will have a riveting duel with Naitanui in Saturday night’s Perth match against West Coast.
Goldstein said it is crucial that when he comes up against fellow star ruckmen such as Naitanui and Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands, he makes sure his own game is working.
“It obviously changes in what you’re going to do, because they’re completely different players,” he said of Naitanui and Sandilands.
“But for me the focus is mainly trying to do what I do best – things like my follow ups and tackles.
“It doesn’t matter who I’m playing against, they can’t stop that. That can’t take that away from me.”
North coach Brad Scott said the Goldstein-Naitanui contest would be pivotal and praised his ruckman for finally making All-Australian selection.
Naitanui, by contrast, was a curious omission from the final 22-player lineup.
“It’s going to be really important for both sides, that the ruck dominance goes their way,” Scott said.
“But Goldy’s in really good nick, he deserved his All-Australian (selection).
“I think he’s been in the squad three times and he’s finally gotten in, so just by weight of performance he deserves it.
“But he’s about the team … it’s not about Naitanui v Goldstein, it’s about who can get their team over the line.”
In a season notable for big performances from ruckmen such as Naitanui, Sandilands and Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs, Goldstein stood out.
“The focus coming into the year was to start well, because my starts over the last couple of years haven’t been great,” Goldstein said.
“I got a lot of confidence from that, which really helped.
“It (All-Australian selection) is a massive honour … (they) are incredible players and obviously Aaron is one of the best ever and NicNat and Sam are on their way to joining that sort of company.
“But obviously the main goal is to win on Saturday night and play off for the premiership.”
Goldstein said unlike last season, North are far from satisfied about reaching the preliminary final stage.
Sydney belted them at this point a year ago.
“Holding on against Geelong in the semi-final (last year) was probably our grand final and we were sort of hoping that we’d get the job done against Sydney,” he said.
“This year, there’s a lot more confidence that we know we have what it takes.
“Last year we were jumping around like idiots, almost – we were that excited, none of us had won a final before.
“But we’re a mature group now and we know what it takes.”