Naitanui edging closer to AFL debut - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Naitanui edging closer to AFL debut

By Justin Chadwick 02/06/2009 07:17:50 PM Comments (0)

Exciting West Coast draftee Nic Naitanui is in the mix to make his highly-anticipated AFL debut in Sunday's clash with Geelong at Subiaco Oval.

And West Coast coach John Worsfold has staunchly defended the form of ruckman Dean Cox, who has copped heavy criticism for his recent lacklustre efforts.

Naitanui starred for Swan Districts in the WAFL last Saturday, tallying 14 possessions, 15 hit-outs, 10 tackles and goal to go with a spectacular grab.

The 19-year-old, snared with pick No.2 at last year's national draft, was grounded for the first part of the season after undergoing surgery on his knee in January.

But the 201cm ruckman has impressed since making his competitive return via the WAFL last month.

Worsfold said he was yet to decide whether to unleash his star pick against the unbeaten Cats or give him another hit out in the WAFL.

"Fitness wise he's getting close to being ready to being capable of playing AFL footy," Worsfold said on Tuesday.

"Form wise and requirement wise for our team - that will now be assessed weekly in terms of when he's ready.

"I would have no hesitation (playing him against the Cats) if he was ready."

Worsfold said Naitanui wouldn't be handed an AFL debut just for the sake of it.

"If he's fit and warrants selection, we'll pick him," Worsfold said.

"The fact that he's young doesn't come into it.

"If he wasn't getting a kick we wouldn't pick him.

"We are not just going to play every young kid on our list so we can come out and say we are playing young kids.

"We are going to play players in form that are going to add value to our side either immediately or in the near future."

Although Cox's numbers have appeared solid in the past fortnight - tallying 59-hit-outs during that period - Worsfold has been disappointed with the output of the four-times All-Australian, particularly in defence.

However, Worsfold felt the severity of the criticism levelled at Cox had been unfair.

"I'm not really sure where all this is coming from because some of the people that were criticising him were also comparing him to Polly Farmer eight months ago," Worsfold said.

"It's just a bit of a whim by some people to talk about that.

"Coxy hasn't been as much of a standout in the last two weeks ... (but) he's still been a very good contributor.

"On any other ruckman's terms he's played very good games."

Meanwhile, Eagles midfielder Matt Priddis could spend another week on the sidelines as he struggles to overcome a niggling groin complaint.

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