The West Coast Eagles and Western Bulldogs are good footy teams. They’re on the right path and should be thereabouts again next season. But – and there’s no two ways about this – they both failed in 2020.
West Coast coaching staff will work overtime on emerging ruckman Nic Naitanui in the lead-up to the AFL season in an attempt to turn the 19-year-old into an effective forward target.
Naitanui starred in the ruck in the Eagles’ intra-club hit-out on Wednesday night and also played a crucial role at ground level to show his star will continue to rise in 2010.
But the 201cm youngster was far less comfortable when sent forward late in the match in a role he can expect to play a fair bit of in season 2010 with Dean Cox still the No.1 ruckman.
“He looked a little bit lost up forward so it’s something we have to work on I think,” Eagles assistant coach Peter Sumich said.
“He went there for periods and looked a little bit out of it.
“So we’ve got to make sure that when he’s down there he’s having a greater impact for us.”
In a promising hit-out for West Coast, midfielders Daniel Kerr, Chris Masten and Luke Shuey shone while forward Ashley Hansen led strongly and looked in top condition.
Masten was the most prolific ball-winner on the ground and his explosive pace and work in the clinches was a highlight.
“Masso looked sharp running away from packs whereas over the last 12 months with that groin injury he hasn’t done that so to come through the game and look sharp is a bonus for us,” Sumich said.
Kerr, who was playing his first competitive hit-out since succumbing to a serious groin complaint midway through last year, started the match slowly but shone during the second period when he was the most influential player on the ground.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Sumich said.
“At the end there he was running up and down in the one spot.
“But he’s missed a fair bit of footy over the last couple of years and the way he does play, an impact player, it will take him probably a few games, at least three in the NAB Cup, to get that going over a period of time in the game.”
The Eagles initially planned to not play Shuey at all during this year’s NAB Cup campaign after the 19-year-old’s terrible run of injuries last year.
But Sumich said the coaching staff may reconsider their position following Shuey’s impressive display.
“I think down the track he’s going to be a ripper but we’ll be very careful with him over the next month or so,” Sumich said.
“At this stage we weren’t going to play him (in the pre-season competition) but we might change.
“It depends on what John and the fitness guys are thinking.”
Adam Selwood copped a heavy knock to the head just seconds before the finish but managed to walk off the ground.
Matt Priddis, Andrew Embley, Shannon Hurn, Ben McKinley (three goals), Darren Glass and Selwood were others to impress in the 60-minute hit-out.