The marquee big man with springs in his heels and cushions for hands delivered another dominant season in the ruck, catapulting to the top of the Official AFL Player Ratings on the back of his powerful influence around the contest.
The 31-year-old is at the top of his game and played 22 home and away matches in a season for the first time since 2010, a remarkable feat in his second full campaign since returning from his second knee reconstruction.
Naitanui’s drive and desire to taste success is obvious, and so is what he means to the playing group after they dug deep and rebounded from a poor three weeks to convincingly knock off the Crows in Adelaide for his 200th game in round 18.
After collecting his second-straight All Australian blazer, and third of his career, the superstar Eagle is favourite to take home back-to-back John Worsfold Medals at next week’s club champion awards.
Standout performance: A fitting finale
With everything on the line in one last finals push, it was no surprise Naitanui elevated to a level few other ruckmen could reach in the round 23 clash against Brisbane at the Gabba.
His stats were jaw-dropping – 24 disposals (second-most of his career), 22 contested possessions and 53 hit-outs (both career-best), plus 11 clearances (equal career-best) – even though it wasn’t enough to drag West Coast over the line.
There is certainly no sign of ‘Nic Nat’ slowing down ahead of what will be his 14th season next year.
Disposals – 15.2
Contested possessions – 12.4
Hitouts to advantage – 12.3
Total Clearances – 7.2
Score involvements – 5.4
2021 AFL statistical rankings:
1st: Ratings points (619.6)
1st: Score launches (4)
2nd: Hitouts to advantage (12.3)
2nd: Stoppage clearances (4.7)
3rd: Hitouts (31.2)
4h: Contested possession rate (78.7)
5th: Total clearances (7.2)
10th: Ruck contests (59)