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Five talking points: West Coast v Brisbane Lions

Alex Malcolm  March 27, 2016 10:15 PM

Highlights: West Coast v Brisbane Lions The Eagles and Lions clash in round one

1. Naitanui's high-flying career-high
Few players in the AFL divide opinion quite like Nic Naitanui, but he is most often maligned for his contested marking ability. On Sunday night he silenced those critics with one of the finest aerial displays of his career. He hauled down six contested marks, a career-best total, to go with his 22 disposals, 17 contested, 46 hit-outs and two goals. A few of the Eagles' stars had big nights with Josh Kennedy bagging eight goals and Matthew Priddis collecting 43 touches.

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2. Bennell is thriving in his new role
Jamie Bennell played just nine games last season as he battled to try and find a permanent place in the Eagles side as a small defender. Following a discussion with coach Adam Simpson during the off-season the Eagles decided to train him as a small forward over the pre-season and he is thriving in his new role. He kicked multiple goals for only the third time in his 86-game career and his two-way running was exceptional. At times he was deep in defence before pushing hard forward using his pace to create scoring opportunities. He will be hard to displace from the team on his present form. 

3. Schache's solid debut
The Lions' prized No.2 draft pick was handed his AFL debut against West Coast after a strong pre-season. He didn't see much of the football up forward against the Eagles but he showed some signs that he is going to be an impressive player. He kicked two goals from set shots and missed a third in the last quarter. His first was courtesy of a down field free kick and he calmly slotted the opportunity. His second came from an impressive contested mark before drilling the finish from beyond the 50m arc.  

4. Return of the Big Easy
Eric Mackenzie got through two games of the pre-season after missing all of 2015 following a knee reconstruction but he still would have been nervous heading into round one. Not that you could tell from his performance after he produced a polished display in defence. He used the ball with great efficiency and slotted into the Eagles' revamped defensive structure seamlessly. He got more confident the longer the game went with several intercept possessions in the last quarter. His presence allowed Jeremy McGovern to go forward several times and kick a goal. 

5. Lions more potent
The Lions have taken some strides forward in their offensive play over the pre-season. In their past six games at Domain Stadium they had failed to kick more than 12 goals on all six occasions. On Sunday they were bold with their run and carry through the midfield and they cracked the 100-point mark against last year's Grand Finalists. They managed 100 points or more only four times last season and all four games were at the Gabba and only one came against a top-eight side, the Western Bulldogs.