West Coast Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui returns after long injury layoff in MCG clash with Richmond

Headshot of Jackson Barrett
Jackson BarrettThe West Australian
Nic Naitanui is back for the Eagles after a long injury layoff.
Camera IconNic Naitanui is back for the Eagles after a long injury layoff. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Nic Naitanui is back with a bang, kicking a goal early in the second quarter with West Coast locked in a tight tussle with Richmond.

The Eagles champion returned from a serious knee injury against the Tigers at the MCG, facing off with Toby Nankervis at the first centre bounce of the game.

It’s the first time Naitanui has played at AFL level since the Eagles’ round four win over Collingwood.

His goal came in the first five minutes of the second term, roving the ball off a pack which featured teammate Jack Darling and snapping one home.

It’s his second goal of the season and comes after he kicked two majors against South Fremantle in the WAFL.

He had two early disposals — both kicks — before heading to the bench in the middle part of the quarter, returning to run out the first term and chipping in with a handball down back.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Toby Nankervis of the Tigers competes with Nic Naitanui of the Eagles during the round 16 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the West Coast Eagles at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 03, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Camera IconNic Naitanui is going head-to-head with Toby Nankervis. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Eagles, who were suffered a 109-point thumping at the height of their troubles the last time they met the Tigers, held firm defensively but squandered opportunities in front of goal to trail 6.2 (38) to 3.4 (22).

Late in the first term, Naitanui was beaten to a pair of defensive-50 hit-outs by Nankervis, who had the better of the early ruck battle and was able to jump over the top of him.

He was hard done by late on with a wayward centre bounce.

Naitanui returned through the WAFL last week and kicked the first goal of his side’s breakthrough win over South Fremantle.

Bailey Williams won the battle to serve as Naitanui’s deputy over 19-year-old teammate Callum Jamieson and won an early hit-out of his own.

Willie Rioli kicked the first goal of the game, linking up with good mate Liam Ryan, who then missed an opportunity to kick the Eagles’ second just minutes later.

Jake Waterman, playing a deeper forward role in the absence of Josh Kennedy, took a pair of big marks early.

Debutant Zane Trew managed to fire an early handball away but was otherwise quiet, despite attending an early centre bounce.

Jack Darling put a stop to a run of three Richmond goals with the first of his 250th game in the shadows of quarter-time.

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