Round 1 Score: 113
Projected Round 2 Score: 99
On Sunday night, there was something exciting that happened for the football community to come together and applaud. No, it wasn’t Perth’s new magnificent stadium being unleashed or Lance Franklin showing why he’s the greatest forward of the modern era with another 8-goal haul – albeit both brilliant. However, it was the comeback story of West Coast’s Nic Naitanui, who spent 18 months on the sidelines reconstructing his knee.
It was the perfect way to close out a huge first round of season 2018, and although managed by Eagles coaching staff, Naitanui impacting the game upon return softened the loss for West Coast fans.
The 27-year-old ruck-man worked hard for several minutes, then came off for an extended stint in the dugout, resulting in just 54% time on ground. Although his stats don’t correlate with that, he was superb in his sides 29-point loss to the Swans.
Naitanui finished with 12 disposals (eight of which contested), 33 hit-outs and one goal for a return of 113. Who knows what he could have posted if he wasn’t held back.
The big man wanted to be out there, the game was slipping away from the Eagles and he was forced to retreat to the bench. Naitanui is a game changer and can be SuperCoach royalty at times, it must have been a satisfying reward for the 18% of coaches who began 2018 with him as their second ruck.
The best news to come out of the match is that he got through unscathed. And now, after a huge amount of worry surrounded his name pre-season, Naitanui is now a trade target after just one week.
This may be due to the fact two popular ruck selections have created first-week carnage, with Matthew Kreuzer (groin) a test to play this week and Paddy Ryder (achilles) set to spend at least six weeks on the sidelines.
3, 174 teams have already offloaded Ryder to Naitanui, and for mine, it’s a no-brainer. You may want a point of difference such as Brisbane’s Stefan Martin, or you’re worried about Naitanui’s knee causing him grief again. This is one situation where the reward heavily outweighs the risk. Underpriced at $465,900, you’re making over $100,000 by following the most popular trade of the week so far, and I can guarantee you won’t find the guy cheaper than what he is now.
West Coast has upcoming games against the Western Bulldogs, Geelong and Gold Coast. The Eagles’ number nine has a high score of 137 against the Dogs, and triple-figure averages against both the Cats and the Suns – who will visit Optus Stadium with 50,000 Eagles’ supporters right behind Naitanui.
He will no doubt continue to be eased into games, but SuperCoach rewards big players who make big plays and all Naitanui needs is a minute of brilliance to bolster his score. If you can bring him in this week, it will undoubtedly set you up in the long run.