GEELONG has a major ruck headache, but West Coast star Nic Naitanui isn’t expecting a walk in the park in Friday night’s semi-final clash at the MCG.
The Cats’ weak ruck department has been somewhat of an Achilles’ heel all season, and they need to find answers quickly if they are to avoid a straight-sets finals exit.
Geelong coach Chris Scott pulled the surprise move of dumping ruckman Rhys Stanley just before last week’s 10-point qualifying final loss to Collingwood.
The move backfired, with Magpies ruckman Brodie Grundy producing a match-winning effort in the absence of an out-and-out ruck opponent.
Grundy finished with 47 hitouts opposed to Mark Blicavs (14) and Esava Ratugolea (10).
Stanley appears certain to earn a recall against the Eagles, but the 28-year-old faces a stiff task to quell Naitanui.
Even if the Cats fail to win many hitouts, Naitanui said Geelong would still be a major threat around the clearances given the presence of Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly and others.
“A lot of teams in the past who might not be as dominant at hand from their rucks have figured ways out around that,” Naitanui said.
“They’ve got one of the best midfields. So we wouldn’t take it on lightly or look at its as a chance to expose them. There’s ways around any deficiencies in any team.
“Stanley’s a good ruckman with an ability to go forward. He really backs himself in. I think he’ll still go for it and attempt to win the majority of the hitouts as well.
“Blicavs as well can hold his own. And young Esava up forward who comes into the ruck – it’s exciting.
“They’re littered with talent the whole Geelong squad. Guys like Ablett come through, the Dangerfields, the Kellys, the Selwoods – I guess you put that little bit of extra work in knowing they are the game breakers of the competition.”
Naitanui starred in his return from a serious ankle injury, tallying 24 hitouts and 14 disposals from just 53 per cent game time in last week’s 55-point win over Essendon.
The 29-year-old says he pulled up well from that match and will play more game time against the Cats.
“Once we got a substantial lead (against Essendon) I was able to sit on the pine a bit longer,” Naitanui said.
“I didn’t really enjoy that … but it will probably pay us dividends this weekend.”
© AAP 2019