Naitanui will be AFL's best: Pendlebury - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Naitanui will be AFL's best: Pendlebury

Sam Lienert 11/09/2011 02:06:32 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury says West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui is on his way to becoming the AFL's best player.

In his first AFL final, the super-athletic 21-year-old was the Eagles' best in Saturday's 20-point qualifying final loss to the Magpies, dominating the hit-outs and also producing some dazzling moments at ground level.

Pendlebury, who with Dane Swan, led a Collingwood midfield that was in the ascendancy for most of the day, despite West Coast's ruck control, said Magpies ruckman Darren Jolly did well just to make a contest.

"Most ruckmen are going to find it hard against Nic Naitanui. He's quite phenomenal even to watch," Pendlebury told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Sunday.

"He jumps that high in the contest, he actually hits it out of the zone where the inside midfielders are and brings the forward flankers and the wingers into the game.

"I have no doubt in a few years he'll be the best player in the business.

"But to Jolls' credit yesterday, I think he physically just tried to wear him down and I think, in the second half, he got on top, wore him down a bit."

Naitanui's job was made harder in the third quarter, when ruck partner Dean Cox had to be subbed off with back spasms, which puts him in doubt for Saturday night's semi-final.

Pendlebury said the Magpies midfielders had to try to cover all areas around a stoppage to try to shark Naitanui's taps, which they did with considerable success.

"Nic Nat can hit the ball wherever he wants, whenever he wants. We just wanted to make sure we were in the right spot that we felt was going to take control of that and we were able to do that yesterday in parts."

The win earned Collingwood a fortnight's break before a home preliminary final, which Pendlebury said would be valuable, particularly for defenders Nick Maxwell and Heath Shaw, who returned from long absences on Saturday.

He also predicted key backman Ben Reid, who missed the match after injuring his groin at training last week, would be fine for the preliminary final.

"It was touch and go whether he'd play this week and they decided against it," he said.

"He was in the club this morning and we were in there having a run on the treadmill and he said he felt good, so I expect him to be fit and ready to go."

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