Eagle Barrass in awe of Nic Nat's heroics

Eagle Nic Naitanui's super AFL form after a second knee operation is inspiring, says Ron Barrass.
Eagle Nic Naitanui's super AFL form after a second knee operation is inspiring, says Ron Barrass.

West Coast defender Tom Barrass has hailed Nic Naitanui's freakish abilities, saying the ruckman helps inspire his teammates.

Naitanui has made a stunning return from a second knee reconstruction, helping the Eagles dominate the clearance battles in wins over Hawthorn and Fremantle.

The 29-year-old was arguably best on ground against the Dockers with his dominance helping West Coast score 12 goals to nil from stoppages.

Naitanui looms as a key player in Friday night's grand-final rematch against Collingwood when he'll come up against All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy.

Barrass was in awe of Naitanui's recent performances.

"He's a freak," Barrass said.

"To be out of the game for so long and to come back and still show consistent form and still show the sparks that he has is really impressive.

"He's a funny one because he doesn't have a lot of involvement, but when he does he just breaks the game right open.

"Whether it be a tap or a tackle or a kick - he's really invaluable and we are stoked to see him back playing football again."

Naitanui's dominant ruck taps were crucial against the Dockers.

But his ability to throw his body around and dive for 50-50 contests have also been a major weapon for West Coast.

"It gets you up and going seeing a big fellow like that doing that," Barrass said.

"And it's just an extra midfielder around the ball, which in the fast game we play today is really valuable."

Collingwood have lost two games on the trot to slip a win behind second-placed West Coast.

Barrass is expecting a fierce contest on Friday night.

"The Pies haven't had the best couple of weeks, but that's how you like to get them - in the big games like that because they'll be coming red hot," he said.

The Eagles will welcome back Josh Kennedy (flu), but defender Liam Duggan will miss up to six weeks with an ankle injury.

Barrass was forced to undergo surgery following the round four win over Fremantle after suffering a stress-related foot injury.

But the premiership defender played well in his AFL return last Saturday, keeping Aaron Sandilands and Rory Lobb quiet when they drifted forward.

Barrass said his foot was feeling good.

"The injury just came about from chronic load," Barrass said.

"It was over a couple of years, eventually the cartilage cracked and I had to get it cleaned up. But I'm back 100 per cent now."

Australian Associated Press