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Nic Nat in attack: Big Eagle wants more goals in 2016

Travis King  March 4, 2016 6:21 PM

Nic Nat's forward focus The Eagles' ruckman tells First Bounce an improved aerial presence is at the forefront of his mind in 2016
AFL 2016 Training - West Coast Eagles 200116

Nic Naitanui is aiming to kick more goals this year

NIC NAITANUI is preparing to take his game to another level by becoming more damaging in attack this season.

The star West Coast ruckman is coming off a brilliant campaign, when he helped propel the Eagles to a shock Grand Final appearance.

He averaged nearly 12 disposals, 34 hit-outs and booted 17 goals after feeling the benefits of getting through his first full pre-season for three years.

While the 201cm big man continues to work on increasing his impact around the ground, Naitanui said honing his forward craft is his chief concern for 2016.

"For us to be able to go forward and take a few more marks and kick a few more goals has been our bigger focus," Naitanui told AFL.com.au's First Bounce.

"What I do in the ruck and what I do at ground level has always been there.

"In terms of getting high numbers (of possessions) that will come, but to be honest it's probably more about having an impact up forward.

"(West Coast's ruckmen) need to add to that to our game where we're able to kick 20-odd goals throughout the year, that will be the target."

The Eagles have an embarrassment of riches among their big men this season, with 2014 club champion Eric Mackenzie and fellow backmen Mitch Brown set to squeeze back into an outstanding team defence.

Their return will free-up Jeremy McGovern in a swingman role, which the emerging star played to perfection against Gold Coast when he booted the match-winning goal in Thursday's NAB Challenge clash after starting in defence.

McGovern looms as a key weapon for coach Adam Simpson and Naitanui is confident the 23-year-old has plenty of improvement left in him.

"I think he's still got a fair way to go. He's obviously one of our better players at the moment," Naitanui said.

"I like him down back but up forward he can have that swingman role as well."

The Eagles were left battered and bruised from the Suns clash, with Brown (finger) and gun recruit Lewis Jetta (calf) finishing the match on the sidelines.

Simpson said the pair would need scans to assess the damage, although Jetta showed some encouraging signs at recovery on Friday.

"Lewis was a funny one … he hurt his calf but he doesn't have a calf," Naitanui joked.

"I think he's pretty good. He was walking around fine today at recovery, so he'll be fine for the next game I hope."

The Eagles face Essendon, coached by club legend John Worsfold, on March 13 at Domain Stadium in the clubs' final pre-season hit-out.