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Five things we learned: Eagles' finals X-factor fires on return

Nic Nat finds his finals fire Nic Naitanui was prolific in West Coast's elimination final win over Essendon
1. Nic Nat is the Eagles' finals X-factor

The Eagles rolled the dice by playing under-done ruckman Nic Naitanui, but the gamble paid off with the athletic big man having a sizeable impact despite playing limited minutes. Naitanui imposed himself on the contest in his first game since an ankle injury in round 17. His chase-down tackle on Essendon speedster Adam Saad in the second quarter was a sight to behold. Naitanui might be in trouble after he was placed on report for throwing Zach Merrett into the fence after having his hair pulled. Naitanui can be the finals X-factor for the reigning premiers as he makes up for lost time after missing last year's flag with a torn ACL.

EAGLES SOAR HIGH Full match coverage and stats

2. Cripps provides a great foil in potent forward line

Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling attract all the attention, but medium forward Jamie Cripps can be just as dangerous in front of goal. Cripps booted four goals, bouncing back superbly after he was kept goalless in the Eagles' shock loss to Hawthorn in round 23. He could've had a bigger night, finishing with 4.3 while also having two goal assists, 12 score involvements and 10 contested possessions. Kennedy also kicked four goals, while dynamic small forward Liam Ryan kicked three and Jake Waterman chipped in with two majors. The Eagles have a diverse, multi-pronged attack that makes them almost impossible to stop.

3. Jetta's sublime foot skills set the tone

There's not many better sights in footy than seeing Lewis Jetta bursting off half-back and hitting targets by foot with beautiful kicks. Some of the West Coast running defender's touches in the first half were jaw-dropping. Jetta's ability to switch the play with precision kicks, and also find the perfect pass going inside 50 to his leading forwards, gives the opposition zero chance to shut down the play. Jetta is part of an Eagles backline that is in sync with each other and know when to drop off their direct opponent to help out a teammate, but they're also willing to take risks and rebound out of defence.

4. Bombers making up the numbers

It was always going to be a tough ask to knock off the reigning premiers in front of 60,000 supporters in Perth, but the Bombers limped into the finals having lost three of their last four games. They started the game that way, trailing by 41 points in the second quarter. High, long kicks forward, which allowed the Eagles' defenders to pick them off, before getting burnt the other way, put the Bombers in a deep hole. The Bombers still haven't won a final since 2004 and face some difficult questions in the off-season if they are to take the next step.

5. McGrath stands tall in a beaten side

Essendon has an absolute gun in Andrew McGrath. On a tough night, McGrath was one of the Bombers' best with his work around stoppages, clean hands, sound decision making and determination to get to plenty of contests. The No.1 overall pick in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft is getting better and better having finished his third season at the elite level. With 64 games under his belt, the 21-year-old is already an important part of the Bombers' set-up and will feature heavily in their plans going forward. McGrath was far from overawed in the finals cauldron and can walk away with his head held high.