GEELONG coach Chris Scott was "mesmerised".
Scott's West Coast counterpart Adam Simpson didn't quite admit to that but still called his freak-of-nature ruckman Nic Naitanui "special".
Those superlatives followed Naitanui's pivotal role in the Eagles' come-from-behind nine-point victory over the Cats, who led by 22 points early in the third quarter.
It was the latest stop in the 30-year-old's redemption campaign that's serving as a reminder of his match-winning brilliance after seasons ruined by serious injuries to both of his knees.
Starting with Naitanui towelling up triple All-Australian Demon Max Gawn in round one, he's been a problem for opposition sides, especially in the shortened games that play into his hands.
The 2012 Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian had 12 more hitouts to advantage on Saturday night, ultimately thrashing Geelong's makeshift ruck combination of Esava Ratugolea and Mark Blicavs.
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"The problem with kicking goals against West Coast is the ball goes back to the middle," Scott joked afterwards.
"They're certainly not disparaging remarks to the guys who competed against him in the hoops tonight.
"I'm not saying you can't compete with him, but we've just got great respect for the champion he is.
"I think the shortened games really help him (and) the centre-bounce rules help him but it's hard not to be mesmerised with some of the stuff he can do."
At one point in the last quarter, Naitanui perfectly palmed the ball down to a charging Josh Kennedy (four majors) – his rival for best-afield honours – to set up a great goal, in what appeared a set play.
Kennedy's move, after leaving Cats defender Harry Taylor in his dust, not only surprised Geelong but even his own coach.
"We did ask for our forwards to stay away from stoppages in the forward 50, to create a bit more space and worry about their defenders," Simpson said of the Naitanui-Kennedy moment.
"Then we saw that hitout. It wasn't a coaching move, but maybe there was a bit more space there. I think they organised it – they did it at training, they said – so we'll take it."
The Eagles have won five matches on the trot to surge into flag favouritism, after starting the season 1-3 and trailing Sydney by 14 points in the opening quarter of round five.
Simpson was pleased with his team's "good resilience" against the Cats, who won both clashes between the clubs last season.
"We've come from, not a long way back, but we had a rough patch there for a few weeks," he said.
"We've worked really hard with our leadership, our system, our brand, our identity and I feel like we've got through that phase.
"But halfway through the second quarter, it wasn't probably the way we wanted to play, so we've still got some work to do."
Meanwhile, Scott remained buoyant about Geelong's season prospects, especially with Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett, Luke Dahlhaus, Quinton Narkle and ruckmen Rhys Stanley and Darcy Fort out.
"I thought it was a good game. I suspect it was a situation of two pretty good teams going at each other and I thought we had control of the game for large periods," Scott said.
"They've obviously got some weapons that are clear for everyone to see and when they have the game on their terms, they're very hard to stop.
"We've got no excuses but we are optimistic about what we might look like; being able to choose two genuine ruckmen.
"It's always bitterly disappointing when you lose a game like that, but I think in the fullness of time, we'll come away more positive than negative around our performance."