Nic Naitanui has played a starring role to help the West Coast Eagles post a nine-point comeback victory against Geelong in Perth.
- West Coast has now won five consecutive matches to sit inside the AFL top four
- Majak Daw played his first AFL match in 706 days in the Kangaroos’ 69-point win over the Crows
- St Kilda made it three wins in a row with a 53-point triumph over Sydney
The home side trailed by 21 points early in the third quarter of Saturday night’s match but booted five of the final six goals to secure the 11.7 (73) to 10.4 (64) win in front of 26,211 spectators.
The Eagles’ win followed an emotional day on the the other side of the country, with North Melbourne’s Majak Daw making a winning return to the AFL on the Gold Coast.
Daw had not played an AFL match since late 2018 and he helped the Kangaroos defeat Adelaide by 69 points.
Also on Saturday, St Kilda recorded a third consecutive win for the first time in more than three years with a thumping 53-point victory over injury-hit Sydney.
In Perth, Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy booted two vital goals in the pulsating final quarter to finish with four for the match.
Tim Kelly tallied 23 disposals and five clearances in his first match against the Cats since leaving the club at the end of last year.
Dom Sheed was also exceptional with two goals and six clearances from his 24 disposals.
But it was Naitanui who had the biggest influence on the match, despite tallying just nine disposals and failing to take a mark.
A significant portion of Naitanui’s 34 hit-outs fell in the lap of his midfield troops, leading to several crucial goals.
His bullocking work at ground level was also vital in helping turn the midfield battle West Coast’s way in the second half.
The result moves West Coast into fourth spot with a 6-3 record, while Geelong (5-4) are sixth.
West Coast booted the first goal of the match within 12 seconds courtesy of a great ruck tap from Naitanui and a mark from Kennedy in the square.
The Cats won the inside 50 count 11-6 to take a six-point lead into the first break, but they deserved more for their dominance.
The visitors threatened to break away in the second term as the lead grew to 22 points, but a late goal to Sheed ensured the damage was not too great.
Geelong were forced to defend grimly for long periods of the second half as West Coast launched wave after wave of attack.
The Cats were clinging to a two-point lead early in the final quarter when the goal review system took centre stage.
Geelong’s Sam Simpson celebrated a goal despite his kick coming off his knee.
Replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball touched his boot after coming off his knee, meaning the goal umpire’s original decision of a goal stood.
A centimetre-perfect Naitanui ruck tap a short time later helped Kennedy score his third goal, and the Eagles were in front when Jack Darling kicked truly at the 12-minute mark.
The next 10 minutes was full of frenzied excitement as players from both sides threw everything at the contest.
The sealer did not come until the final minute, when Kennedy kicked his fourth.
Daw completes inspiring AFL comeback
Daw, playing in his first AFL match in more than 700 days after suffering serious hip and pelvic injuries in a fall from Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge in December 2018, was the focus in Carrara as the Kangaroos claimed a 19.5 (119) to 7.8 (50) win.
The 29-year-old provided the highlight of the victory when he kicked a goal in the final term, with every one of his teammates coming to jump all over him in celebration.
Daw finished with eight disposals, four marks and his goal.
North Melbourne’s victory ends a six-match losing run and leaves winless Adelaide stranded at the bottom of the ladder.
The Kangaroos’ tally of 119 is also the highest score by a team in 2020, eclipsing West Coast’s 111 against Collingwood in round eight.
The Crows’ unwanted club-record losing run is now at 12 and it will be more than a year since their last AFL win when they take to Adelaide Oval to play Melbourne on Wednesday.
Daw did not take long to make an impact on the match, playing a key role in the build-up to the opening goal scored by Luke Davies-Uniacke.
That score sent the Kangaroos on their way as they kicked four goals to none in the opening term.
Adelaide made an attempt at a comeback in the second term but a flurry of three goals at the end of the half ensured North had extended their margin to 34 points by the main break.
Saints hand Swans heavy loss
Tough midfielder Zak Jones starred for the Saints against his old side with 21 disposals and six clearances in the 15.11 (101) to 6.12 (48) triumph at the Gabba.
The Swans had no answer to St Kilda’s superior run and slick ball use after half-time as Jack Steele (24 disposals), Jade Gresham (23) and Jack Billings (19) racked up possessions through the midfield.
Emerging key forward Max King and Nick Hind both kicked three goals as Dan Butler, Josh Battle and Gresham chipped in with two each.
It was the first time the Saints had managed a triple-figure score this season.
Luke Parker (26 disposals and five clearances) and James Rowbottom (16 and seven) worked hard for the Swans and Tom McCartin finished with three goals.
Tom Papley, the Coleman Medal leader heading into round nine, managed just one goal under Ben Paton’s watch.
The only real sour note for St Kilda was a calf injury that led to Seb Ross’s late withdrawal before the bounce.
Ross had missed just one match in five seasons and was replaced by Shane Savage, who had 14 disposals in his first senior appearance of 2020.