PORT Adelaide assistant coach Phil Walsh has laughed off criticism of out-of-form West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui, describing him as the most exciting player since Gary Ablett snr.

The athletic 23-year-old has suffered groin issues for the past 18 months and was well below his best last week against Geelong before he was subbed out of the game.

Walsh, who spent five years with Naitanui as assistant coach at West Coast before returning to the Power this season, said he was the most exciting player he had seen since working alongside the player who became known as 'God' at Geelong as a strength coach.

He warned those questioning whether Naitanui would reach his full potential to settle down and brace themselves.

Form no factor for Nic Nat

"It's coming, it's coming, don't worry … the guy's had groin and back problems, let's just take a deep breath," Walsh said.

"I was lucky enough to be at Geelong as a strength and conditioning coach with Gary Ablett snr, but for mine [Naitanui's] the most exciting player other than Gary Ablett snr I've seen in my time in footy.

"I remember the North Melbourne game when he took that mark and won us the game after the siren last year at West Coast - he's got those in him and it'll only be a matter of time before he's doing it [regularly].

"Hopefully it's not this Saturday night."

Like the rest of the football world, Walsh didn't know whether Naitanui would play against the Power at Patersons Stadium.

But he said that if the 201cm ruckman did line up on Saturday, the Power would need to change their strategy if they were to gain midfield ascendancy.

"You basically have to have a different set up when Naitanui's in the ruck because your chances of winning the hit-out – particularly in the centre bounce – are small," he said.

"We probably have some methods of neutralising a contest, but by the same token we want to back Matt Lobbe in that he can actually win the ball and get it going our way."

Walsh played down his ability to provide the Power with inside knowledge of the Eagles' setup, despite being at the club from 2009-2013.

He said the arrival of new coach Adam Simpson voided anything he might have been able to share on West Coast's setups.

But Walsh's familiarity with the long and narrow Patersons Stadium ground might well come in handy for Ken Hinkley and his players.

Walsh will advise the Power's players against over-handballing deep in defence.

"It's really important to get field position at Subi, the deeper you can get the ball inside 50 the more chance you've got to lock it in there, a lot depends on that," he said.

"One thing that Port Adelaide can learn from last year is – I actually went and watched [the Power] when they went and played Fremantle – you don't want to over-handball in your back 50 at Subi.

"And we'll be trying to kick the footy."

Twitter: @AFL_Harry