Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nic Naitanui up close

We were at the West Coast v Melbourne game at the G on the weekend. My friend (an MCC member) suggested that we sit right down the near the fence next to the players' interchange bench as it was a good view.
he was spot on - what a fantastic vantage point. We sat right next to the West Coast bench; "Doc" Larkins was in a media seat in front of us, with a microphone in his pocket and headphones on, and was doing live commentary on injuries etc (I'm guessing for MMM radio or similar). His comments were interesting.
I could see and hear much of what was going on around the rotations, some bench coaching and the like. As well as some up close views of players.
Much of the pre-game hype in The Age and the Herald-Sun surrounded Nic Naitanui for the Eagles (pictured) and Jack Watts for the Demons.
As a contest, the game really never left first or second gear.
With respect to these two players (#1 picks in the '08 draft respectively) spectators only caught glimpses of their talents.
Watts took a couple of strong contested marks, and was a lot safer on his chest than some of his older colleagues - but that was about it. He really didn't have much influence on the game at all, and seemed a little bit "at sea" at times.
Naitanui took one blinding mark and a couple of other near-misses - and got really high up over J-Ma and Johnson in the rucks to win some good taps - but really didn't do much else either. He was off the ground a lot (and on teh bench next to us) and seemed to be stretching his legs a fair bit throughout. Also, when he did get the ball, he seemed like he really didn't want to kick it at all, handballing it off virtually every time.
The sting went out of the game after Melbourne lost some competitiveness through injuries to Matthew Bate and Aaron Davey. Despite coming back on these two lost their previous impact.
One observation: Eagles ruckman Dean Cox is absolutely massive, and looks in pretty good nick. he gets around the ground in an amazing fashion, and really is a true "follower". It's bad news for other clubs if Cox is getting back to his best form - he really is the complete tall ruckman/follower at his best.
For the Eagles, Mark LeCras has an uncanny ability to put himself in the best position to take marks and kick goals (although he was wayward this day). Priddis wins some really tough ball and Kennedy will just get better and better as a forward-line focal point, although he was pretty sore after some fierec competition in this game. The Eagles seemed to be favoured a little by umpiring decisions, some of them vital turnovers that punished Melbourne.
For Melbourne, it would have been much worse if Jared Rivers hadn't turned back many attacks. he was brilliant and he reminded me of Dustin Fletcher in that regard, winning so many vital 50-50s against Eagles forwards. The Dees lacked a strong marking option inside the forward 50 and simply struggled desperately to get it inside 50 - fullstop. Jones was tough in contests and tried hard but sprayed a few. melbourne's indigenous players showed considerable leg speed and talent here and there as well - very exciting patches once or twice. Davey was brilliant early but faded after getting smacked in the face. I was disappointed that Colin Silvia didn't do more. Green was OK as well.

All in all, it was great fun to go to the footy at the MCG (despite the game petering out a bit!). Most of all, it was fabulous news the next day to hear the Bombers (on the radio back home) get up to beat the Saints in a tough encounter. Go theBombers!

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