West Coast coach Adam Simpson is doing his best to hose down the hype on Nic Naitanui, predicting the star ruckman will be a “slow burner” this season.
The reduced quarters implemented for 2020 means Naitanui is set to spend a larger percentage of the game on the field.
Naitanui has been plagued by injuries over the past three years, but expectations are high he will dominate this season after working his way back to full fitness.
However, Simpson says fans shouldn’t expect miracles from Naitanui.
“I still think Nic will be a slow burner,” Simpson said.
“I don’t think he’s going to come and try to set the world on fire in the first five minutes of the game.
“We’re really keen to get a good season out of him. We’ll manage his minutes.
“He’ll be unders in the first part of the season just to see where he’s at. We’d love to call upon him if the game’s on the line and we need him to do something special.
“We don’t want to burn him out too early. We’ll work through that in the next few weeks.”
Naitanui’s battle with Gold Coast ruckman Jarrod Witts is set to play a key role in the result of Saturday’s clash at Metricon Stadium.
Oscar Allen beat out Tom Hickey, Nathan Vardy and Bailey Williams to be Naitanui’s understudy against the Suns.
Allen played the role of a pinch-hitting ruckman for much of last season, with his ability to hold down a spot in attack proving crucial in him earning selection this week.
“It was actually a really close decision,” Simpson said.
“It could have been anyone. In the end we went with the youth.
“It might be a bit wet. He might be able to play forward a bit more and pinch-hit with Nic when he’s off the ground.”
Just 10 goals were kicked in Thursday night’s draw between Collingwood and Richmond, but Simpson said it was too early to declare that scoring would be down in 2020.
“I don’t know if that’s a reflection of where the rest of the season is going,” Simpson said.
“It probably shows that three weeks of pre-season after eight weeks off means we’re going to be a little bit rusty. Maybe the coaches as well – it’s a bit of the unknown really.”