Worsfold not fazed by clash with Cousins - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Worsfold not fazed by clash with Cousins

By Justin Chadwick 09/06/2009 07:58:08 PM Comments (0)

Ben Cousins' first-up clash against his former side West Coast could get a whole lot bigger, with Eagles coach John Worsfold seriously considering handing prized recruit Nic Naitanui his AFL debut against Richmond this Saturday.

Naitanui, snared with pick No.2 in last year's national draft, was grounded for the early part of the season after undergoing minor knee surgery in January.

But Worsfold declared his star charge was now "ready" for a senior call-up after the 19-year-old tallied 15 possessions, four goals, 21 hit-outs and six tackles in the WAFL last Saturday.

"He's progressing as we would have hoped," Worsfold said on Tuesday.

"His form has improved no doubt week to week.

"He's now ready to play at the highest level if that opportunity is there for him."

While fans on both sides of the country have been waiting all year to see Cousins up against his former teammates, Worsfold insisted he wasn't one of them.

"I would expect that there's interest in it for a lot of people," Worsfold said of the man he still rates as an "A-grade player".

"A lot of West Coast people will watch the game with an interest in how Ben goes and depending on their personal stance on it they'll either hope he goes well or won't be fussed.

"It's out of my control.

"It doesn't affect our preparation."

Cousins, who was axed by the Eagles at the end of 2007 and then handed a 12-month ban by the AFL for bringing the game into disrepute, said it would be a strange feeling playing against long-time teammates, with whom he shared the premiership dais less than three years ago.

"I can't just say it is another game," Cousins told Nova 100 radio.

"They were a huge part of my life. I have some great mates and keep an interest in how they are going.

"It will be a little funny in the build up, but once the game starts it is just another game of footy."

Worsfold said the club would not put any pressure on Naitanui this year, especially after witnessing Jack Watts' less-than-dazzling debut for Melbourne on Monday.

"We are not expecting him to come in and dominate the competition, we expect him to ... just do his best and learn and start his career and build on it week to week," he said.

"His agility, the power he's going to bring to the side, his tackling ability and ability to hunt the football is awesome.

"He's going to take a great mark and he's going to kick a couple of brilliant goals, but we want him to be able to ruck well and assist our midfield there and we want him to be able to compete and bring that other side to his game and the team as well."

Eagles midfielder Andrew Embley (ankle) is facing a race against time to prove his fitness for Saturday's clash, but David Wirrpanda (hamstring) should return, along with Daniel Kerr (suspension).

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