Eagles hope Naitanui's shoulder holds up - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Eagles hope Naitanui's shoulder holds up

Justin Chadwick 04/05/2011 06:49:52 PM Comments (0)

West Coast coach John Worsfold is hopeful Nic Naitanui can see out the AFL season despite conceding the emerging ruckman is likely to need shoulder surgery at year's end.

Naitanui has had a history of shoulder problems during his short career, undergoing surgery on his right shoulder at the end of 2010 before suffering a minor injury to his left during this year's pre-season competition.

The 201cm excitement machine, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Wednesday, was a late withdrawal from the round one win over North Melbourne as he continued to battle the complaint.

But Worsfold said rumours Naitanui may need mid-season surgery were off the mark.

"Our medical staff are hopeful he'll get through the whole season," Worsfold said on Wednesday.

"We've had players in many seasons that have had bad shoulder injuries that you hope they make it through the season.

"It may have been Glen Jakovich one year who popped it out five or six times and played on throughout the year. He obviously wasn't eligible for injury payments back then, in those days.

"There's players, not necessarily in our team, but in the competition now playing that will need surgery at the end of the year.

"But if they dislocate or pull their shoulders out again in the meantime, that may bring that surgery forward.

"That's just a normal unknown. But we're certainly hopeful Nic will make it through the whole season and continue to get better."

Naitanui's contested marking has been down this season, but Worsfold was confident the high-leaping, Fijian-born big man would soon regain his aerial prowess.

"I think (his lack of contested marking) is more so (down to) the fact he didn't do any overhead marking practice for a month leading into the season," Worsfold said.

"He's starting to incorporate that a lot more now.

"We think he's looking stronger, certainly on the training track, and that will start to pay off in games over the coming weeks."

Naitanui and Dean Cox will play an important role against the Bombers this Sunday as the ruck duo attempt to nullify the influence of Essendon big men Paddy Ryder, David Hill and Tom Bellchambers at Etihad Stadium.

"We're pretty happy with how our ruckmen are performing at the moment," Worsfold said.

"They're in good form and Nic certainly will continue to get better as he improves with the amount of training he can do.

"Coxy's in great form, so I'm sure Coxy's looking forward to the challenge. He's had good battles in the past, especially with Hill.

"I've been impressed with him (Bellchambers) this year so far, especially his contested marking.

"He's presented really well as a ruckman and as a forward. We certainly won't be taking him lightly."

The Eagles have won the past four encounters against Essendon, including last year's epic when Mark LeCras booted 12 goals.

But Worsfold said the Bombers' revised playing style under new coach James Hird meant past results counted for little.

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