West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui is primed and hungry for a big season, and his teammates are looking forward to feeding off the spoils.
Naitanui warmed up for the start of the AFL season with a dominant ruck performance in Sunday’s 105-point demolition of Essendon.
The 2012 All-Australian tallied 24 hit-outs, six clearances, and four inside-50s in the dominant win, with his tap work at the centre bounces particularly impressive.
Midfielders Luke Shuey, Matt Priddis, and Andrew Gaff feasted off Naitanui’s brilliance, and the trio couldn’t be happier about the 201cm ruckman’s form.
“He has 15, 16 games a year where he does that sort of stuff,” Shuey said.
“We do tend to take it for granted how good it is and how blessed we are to be roving to him.
“If we lost him for a fair amount of time, we’d have a fair idea of what we’re missing out on.
“He’s in good form, and he’s hungry to succeed this year.”
Shuey is normally an automatic starter in the centre circle, but he’s facing increasing competition for prime position next to Naitanui.
“Me and Gaffy normally have a few arguments a game about who’s going to have a crack on ball,” Shuey said with a laugh.
“I normally win because I’m older, but he’s got an All-Australian under his belt now, so he’s starting to pull a bit of rank.”
The bulk of West Coast’s squad will be given the weekend off before their round one clash with Brisbane at Domain Stadium on March 27.
But Jack Redden, Dom Sheed (knee), Mark Hutchings (calf), and Lewis Jetta (calf) are set to line up for WAFL side East Perth in their bid to push their case for a round-one call-up.
Shuey’s pre-season was delayed by a knock to the knee.
But the 25-year-old performed strongly in his first game back, tallying 18 disposals and booting 1.2 against the Bombers.
West Coast’s pre-season consisted of a 100-point loss to Adelaide, a tight win over Gold Coast, and a big victory over Essendon.
Coach Adam Simpson said the performance against Essendon put him at ease.
“It was good to get some ball movement and some really good team defence going,” Simpson said.
“We’re not getting carried away with the margin, but it was more like our brand.”