Former Essendon forward Scott Lucas has launched a scathing attack on Nic Naitanui, describing the star West Coast ruckman as a poor footballer that makes horrible decisions.
Naitanui has copped a barrage of criticism following his quiet start to the year, with AFL greats Brad Hardie, Tony Shaw and Garry Lyon all questioning the 23-year-old’s worth. Hardie has said he should be dropped.
Former West Coast coach John Worsfold has leapt to the defence of the 2012 All-Australian, claiming a series of groin injuries over the past two years meant Naitanui was unlikely to reach peak fitness and form this season.
The debate surrounding Naitanui comes at a sensitive time for the 201cm ruckman, who is in the process of negotiating a new deal at West Coast that could be worth in the vicinity of $1 million per season.
Lucas, who kicked 471 goals during his glittering 270-game career, said Naitanui wasn’t even worth half that, describing him as a great athlete but a poor footballer.
“Everyone’s got strengths, and I think his strength is just not relevant to contributing significantly at AFL level,” Lucas told SEN radio.
“If he had 20 decisions to make (against Carlton on Saturday), 18 were incorrect, were horribly wrong.
“He’s only good to watch on television, because you see the little highlights.
“You see a snaphsot of in and around the ball, and he’s really impressive.
“He’s a big dude and he wins the ball, and he does a shimmy and a tap, and you go, ‘That was great’.
“If you come and watch him live, he’s a very ordinary footballer.
“He’ll kick it to the opposition or kick a lob wedge seven metres when he should shoot for goal.”
Although Naitanui’s stats are significantly down on previous years, his one-percenters remain vital.
However, his lack of fitness means his influence on games has become limited.
Lucas said that was clear to see in West Coast’s three-point loss to Carlton on Saturday.
“(Levi) Casboult ran to the fat side a couple of times. Naitanui either wouldn’t run because his fitness wouldn’t allow him, or had no idea that was where Casboult (was going),” Lucas said.
“I think most of it is footy smarts.
“I don’t say you drop him.
“My only defence was he didn’t jump, so I’m wondering are you injured.
“But in this day and age you don’t play if you can’t jump.”
West Coast’s three-game losing streak has left them precariously placed at 3-3 heading into Sunday’s crunch western derby against Fremantle.