It was difficult to separate the performances of a handful of Eagles players to determine best afield.

The class and grunt of midfielders Tim Kelly, Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Dom Sheed could see any of them feature when the Brownlow Medal votes are counted late in the year.

Defenders Liam Duggan and Brad Sheppard could also be in contention, but in the end the influence of ruckman Nic Naitanui was the difference. He had a direct impact on all of the big moments.

When Josh Kennedy kicked his opening goal – and the first of the match – in the first 15 seconds of the contest, Naitanui set them on their way when he palmed the ball into the path of Shuey, who fed it to Kelly who then drove it deep, finishing in the hands of Kennedy just inside the goal line.

On the stroke of three-quarter time, it was again Naitanui palming the ball to Shuey, who this time released it to the running Andrew Gaff. The lithe left footer then pumped the ball deep to the top of the goal square where Brendan Ah Chee converted to pull the margin back to eight points.

Then, early in the last quarter, came the moment of the game.

A forward 50 stoppage, with the deficit still eight points, and Naitanui caressed the ball behind him into the path of the unlikely recipient, Kennedy who had pushed off veteran Cats defender Harry Taylor.

The key forward gathered without breaking stride and kicked it across his body to frank the dominance West Coast had enjoyed in general play.

Naitanui had only seven possessions – all of them contested – but had 34 hit outs, four clearances, six score involvements, three tackles and was responsible for seven inside 50 entries.