It ended, finally, with Nic Naitanui awkwardly spiralling a punt into the centre square and the waiting arms of an opponent.
The hopes of West Coast AFL ruckman Nic Naitanui playing again this year have soared dramatically after backing up Tuesday’s training session with another workout on Thursday.
Naitanui suffered a syndesmosis ankle injury in round 17, and it was initially feared he might miss the rest of the season.
But the 29-year-old’s progress has surprised the Eagles, with his two appearances at training this week raising the prospect of returning in time for the finals.
Naitanui ran and moved smoothly on Tuesday.
Thursday’s session was behind closed doors, but coach Adam Simpson was impressed by what he saw.
“He looked good,” Simpson said.
“I think we all got a little bit of a surprise when we saw him running around and jumping at training but, apparently, that was all part of the plan.
“The next phase is to train a bit more next year and, perhaps after the bye heading into the finals, he might be available.
“I think he’s pulling up pretty well. He backed up that session on Tuesday – he backed that up today. We are pretty cautious with it all. We’re not in a rush. It gives him good purpose.”
When asked whether he had changed his position on Naitanui from hopeful to expectant, Simpson replied: “I think some people at the club have but I’m staying the same.
“I’m not going to ride the wave. I’ve got too much to do than worry about Nic being available every day. But I was pleasantly surprised to see him on the track.
“And him just being around the club with a smile on his face, knowing there’s hope, is good enough for me at the moment.”
A fit Naitanui would give West Coast’s flag defence a major boost.
The Eagles will finish in the top two if they can win their last two games, with Sunday’s blockbuster against Richmond at the MCG looming as the trickiest assignment.
Richmond have won seven-straight matches to move into fourth spot, and will be boosted by star midfielder Dustin Martin’s return.
Eagles midfielder Elliot Yeo might get the job on Martin after doing well against some of the other big-bodied midfield stars in the competition.
“I think he just likes the challenge,” Simpson said of Yeo.
“He’s a bit of a beast around the ball and he plays on strong beasts of the opposition. It becomes a battle.
“He looks forward to the big match-ups but, having said that, he doesn’t need them either.”