NIC Naitanui’s long-awaited return from a knee injury headlined the West Australian week of football with the ruck star returning for East Perth amidst the West Australian Football League (WAFL) preseason.
West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has made a successful comeback to senior football after playing for affiliate side East Perth in a WAFL practice match on Saturday afternoon.
As the first round of preseason matches kicked off for the state competition, Naitanui’s first game in 568 days since rupturing his ACL in round 22, 2016 was the main talking point for WA footy fans.
Speaking to The Age, Eagles coach Adam Simpson said he was relieved that his star ruckman had come out of his first game in two-years unscathed.
It was a little bit of relief [seeing him get through],” Simpson said. “I think everyone was a bit anxious about this step he was about to confront. “He would have been a bit nervous as well. He probably played like that a little bit. “But I thought in the third quarter we saw some real glimpses of his good footy and what he does really well. “That’s a positive for everyone.”
Standing at 197cm and weighing only 80kgs, East Fremantle youngster Michael Cronan, who was opposed to Naitanui in the ruck, had a tough day battling against the former All Australian, as the Fijian finished with 14 disposals and 33 hitouts in 54 minutes of game time.
Naitanui’s game for the Royals marked his first appearance at WAFL level in any form since 2009, when he played for original club Swan Districts in the first preliminary final.
Around the grounds:
Last year’s grand finalists Subiaco 8.13 (61) had a tight win over a plucky West Perth outfit 7.9 (51), with the Lions overcoming the Falcons by 10 points at Leederville Oval. Claremont were no match for reigning premiers Peel Thunder, with the Tigers succumbing to the Mandurah side 4.6 (30) to 13.11 (89) at Claremont Oval. South Fremantle had a narrow victory over an up-and-coming Swan Districts 9.8 (62) to 8.12 (60) side at Fremantle Oval.
The hype of Naitanui’s return overshadowed East Perth’s 13.7 (85) to 9.6 (60) win over East Fremantle at Shark Park.