The West Australian newspaper is reporting tonight that Nick Naitanui will miss up to three months with a fractured knee, severely denting prospects for this debut season and sending fantasy coaches back to the drawing board for their ruck benches.
The report states that Naitanui will miss “at least three months”, which technically means he could be back as early as the round 3 game against St Kilda on April 11. Digby Beacham makes a valid point, however, about the unlikelihood of NicNat being able to force Mark Seaby out of the Eagles side even when he is ready to play.
One of the underreported stories in the preseason training reports is how good Seaby has looked, and how the hierarchy were putting him in intraclub scratch matchess as ruck for the second team, leaving Naitanui on the sidelines. The Eagles might have toyed with trading him in the offseason, but he’s an Eagle for now and he is now unassailed as the #2 ruckman for West Coast. He’s not going to be a fantasy option unless Dean Cox gets injured, of course.
To be fair, Naitanui had dropped off the radar of fantasy coaches even before this news, undoubtedly due to his inflated price as #2 pick and the experience most had last year of Cox and Troy Simmonds playing every game, leaving expensive bench rucks like Matthew Kreuzer, Cameron Wood and Matthew Leuenberger rotting on the pine as wastes of good money. There’s no guarantee of finding another Simmonds, though many are looking at Hamish McIntosh and to a lesser extent Brad Ottens. Cox is no lock to play 22 either. Nevertheless, it seems like most coaches in the Fanplanner are prepared to shift as much money as possible out of their ruck benches, to the extent of ignoring the #4 entirely by buying a basement-price rookie.
As for Naitanui, this news destroys his value for 2008, since nobody is going to trade him in during the season unless another premium or mid-range ruck goes down with injury just as NicNat is on the bubble. Like Bradd Dalziell last year, it may be a case of having to watch him destroy his value for next year by scoring too much to make him mid-priced for 2010. It’s all part of fantasy footy!