West Coast ruckman Callum Sinclair says the mere presence of Nic Naitanui gives the rest of the team a big confidence boost during games.
Naitanui has played a key role in the Eagles’ hot form this season, and his duel with North Melbourne giant Todd Goldstein will go a long way towards deciding the result of Saturday night’s preliminary final at Domain Stadium.
Sinclair’s own game has improved dramatically in recent years, and he said learning off Naitanui had been vital over that period.
“He’s very talented, and very diligent in his preparation towards every game,” Sinclair said.
“He really leaves no stone unturned in regards to his training and recovery.
“He’s really admired for the way he follows up his footy after his ruck contests. It’s probably an area in my game I’d like to improve.
“It’s great to learn off Nic. We certainly walk taller when Nic’s out there.”
Goldstein beat Naitanui for the sole ruck spot in this year’s All-Australian squad.
The 27-year-old Kangaroo is also a chance to win the Brownlow medal after averaging 44 hit-outs and 15 disposals a game this season, as well as booting 11 goals.
Although Goldstein will be heavily relied upon to shoulder most of the ruck load on Saturday night, Sinclair doesn’t think the 201cm tap specialist will be vulnerable to fatigue.
“Todd’s got a really good all-round game,” Sinclair said.
“He’s got a great tank on him. He can have a really good impact at ground level and in the air.”
Eagles midfielder Matt Priddis is looking forward to the ruck battle.
“I’ve got the best seat in the house,” Priddis said.
“They know their craft really well.
“Nic’s improvement this year has come from (the fact) he’s not just relying on his leap.
“He knows how to step around an opponent and work them over. His improvement’s been great to watch.”
Sinclair was West Coast’s third-string ruckman at the start of the year, having played just nine games in the previous two seasons.
But the poor early-season form of Scott Lycett opened the door for Sinclair to make his mark.
The 26-year-old former rookie made the most of his chance, averaging 12.5 disposals and 19 hit-outs across 18 games this season to cement his spot in the side.
His 13 goals as a part-time forward have also proved crucial.