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West Coast Eagles

Naitanui preparing for three-pronged Cat attack

Naitanui press conference 09.09.19 Nic Naitanui speaks to the media after our win against our big win against the Bombers!

Nic Naitanui has plenty of homework ahead of him leading into the Eagles’ semi-final clash with Geelong.

The star ruckman says he will be preparing to face as many as three Cats at the centre bounce on Friday night.

Geelong opted to tackle Collingwood colossus Brodie Grundy without its main big man Rhys Stanley in last Friday’s qualifying final, but Naitanui expects the athletic tall to be in the Geelong's final 22 this week.

He will also be readying himself to face versatile Cats Mark Blicavs and Esava Ratugolea, who Chris Scott has deployed at centre bounces and stoppages on several occasions this year.

Naitanui said he was looking forward to the challenge of taking on Geelong’s three-pronged ruck attack.

“I’ve played against them all. They’re all respected in their own right,” Naitanui said.

“Stanley is a good ruckman and has the ability to go forward as well. Blicavs … can hold his own. He’s rucked early days but has moved down back in recent years.

“They’ve got him and young Esava as well up forward, who comes in the ruck.

“It’s exciting. They’ve also got a very talented midfield as well, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Naitanui made an ominous return to the AFL arena on Thursday after spending seven weeks on the sidelines rehabilitating an ankle syndesmosis injury.

The 2012 all-Australian amassed 24 hitouts, 14 disposals, nine contested possessions and four tackles in just a tick over 50 per cent game time to help West Coast conquer Essendon by 55 points.

As good as his comeback performance was, Naitanui said he would not be taking the Cats’ ruck division lightly on Friday night.

“Stanley, if he comes back in, he really backs himself in and I think he’ll still go for it and attempt to win the majority of the hitouts,” Naitanui said.

“I think a lot of the teams in the past that might not be as dominant in their rucks have figured ways around that.

“We wouldn’t take it lightly or look at it as a chance to expose them.”