Naitanui stars in sombre Eagles win

March 22, 2020 9:20 pm in by

WEST Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui put on a dominant display to inspire his team to a 27-point win over Melbourne at a sombre Optus Stadium.

The Eagles booted five unanswered goals in the opening quarter of Sunday’s clash on the way to a 12.6 (78) to 7.9 (51) triumph.

The game was played just two hours after news broke that the AFL would go on hold until at least June in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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It meant the game in Perth would be the last taste of AFL action for at least 10 weeks.

Before the match, prized Eagles recruit Tim Kelly said the players felt a sense of numbness as the severity of the situation hit home.

Goal celebrations were notably muted during the game, with players knowing a round-one win might not end up counting for anything.

Nonetheless, Naitanui produced an enormous display, tallying 13 disposals, 23 hitouts, six clearances and two score assists to beat Max Gawn in the crucial ruck battle.

Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey, and Dom Sheed were prominent through the midfield, while goalsneak Liam Ryan booted 3.3.

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Melbourne midfielder Jack Viney, who lost the captaincy in February, was his team’s shining light.

The 25-year-old tallied 34 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal, while former Docker Ed Langdon finished with 31 possessions.

Debutant Kysaiah Pickett showed flashes of brilliance to finish with two goals.

Although Melbourne won the inside-50m count 14-9 during the opening term, the scoreboard made for ugly reading.

The Demons spurned several good early chances, and it came back to haunt them as West Coast broke the shackles late in the quarter.

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Brendon Ah Chee booted two goals in the space of a minute to get the ball rolling.

And when Lewis Jetta’s floater from 55m took a kind bounce and rolled through, West Coast entered the first break with a 31-4 advantage.

A rout loomed large at that point but Viney simply refused to let it happen, registering 20 disposals, four clearances and a goal in the first half as the Demons closed the gap to 21 points.

Melbourne laid just four tackles in the third quarter, with two goals to Ryan giving West Coast enough breathing space to cruise to victory.

The Demons won the inside-50m count 45-35 for the match, but their wayward delivery was their downfall.

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© AAP 2020

WEST COAST 5.1 7.3 11.6 12.6 (78)

MELBOURNE 0.4 3.6 5.9 7.9 (51)

Goals: West Coast: L Ryan 3 B Ah Chee 2 D Sheed 2 A Gaff J Darling J Petruccelle L Jetta T Kelly. Melbourne: K Pickett 2 T McDonald 2 A Neal-Bullen J Melksham J Viney.

Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Robert Findlay, Cameron Dore.

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Venue: Optus Stadium.


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