Win a showcase for NicNat, McGovern

Amid a tough season, the performances of two key position players would have pleased West Coast fans and officials in the three-point win over the Gold Coast on Saturday.

Nic Naitanui played easily his best game for this season, in his 100th AFL appearance; and Jeremy McGovern’s final term, in particular, was crucial to the win.

If you’re searching for a definition of a project player, look no further than McGovern.

The 22-year-old is the son of former Fremantle and Sydney defender Andrew McGovern, and has been with the Eagles for four seasons.

Saturday was just his third game, all of them coming in 2014.

He was picked up in the 2011 AFL Rookie Draft at number 44 and elevated to the senior list at the end of last season, despite missing a lot of the year because of hip surgery.

When coach Adam Simpson arrived at the club at the start of this season, he saw potential in McGovern that fitted nicely in his plans.

“One of the briefs I gave the club was we want flexibility,” Simpson said.

“So we played him at full-back and centre half-back for six or seven weeks at East Perth. We know he can go back. He reads the play pretty well.

“It's something that we want to do with all our players because of the rotations and where the game is going.

“We need guys who can play multiple positions. When you're a key forward, you're either going to play in the ruck or hopefully go down back as well.”

Simpson has continually spoken highly of McGovern since he debuted in round six against Carlton.

And his performance on Saturday night showed everyone why.

He kicked the Eagles' only goal in the final term, when the Suns were rampaging, and took two crucial marks in defence. That all happened in the final five minutes of the game.

He finished with 3.3 and took 10 marks in gathering 14 disposals.

“Some players wait 10 years before they can really want the ball in those situations,” Simpson said.

“Some players from the very start of their careers, want the ball in their hands and they want to impact the game – and he’s the latter.

“Obviously he’s not a ready-made 200-game player, but he’s got enough confidence that he thinks he can impact the game when it’s close, which is pleasing.”

McGovern is one player who will benefit from the mid-week retirement of captain Darren Glass, as he is bound to see plenty of game time for the remainder of the season.

Scott Selwood and Luke Shuey also pulled out of the side to meet the Suns because of injury and Dean Cox was rested after playing 104 consecutive games.

Cox’s absence meant more ruck responsibility for Naitanui, who has copped all sorts of criticism for poor form this season – and some commentary suggesting the Eagles were taking a risk with signing him on a new five-year contract.

But Saturday’s 22-possession performance (16 contested), with 34 hit-outs and six tackles, was a reminder of how he earned 2012 All-Australian selection.

It’s the first time Simpson has seen what he is capable of, first-hand, for an extended period.

“I just think we're seeing glimpses of his best and for a longer period. He's staying in games for longer,” Simpson said.

“He had 22 possessions and had a legitimate impact on the game. For a guy who gets criticised a lot for perhaps not understanding how to get the ball, all those sort of things, I think every week I've seen improvement.

“Unfortunately you don't get stats for those little knock-ons and hit-ons and efforts that just disrupt the play. Because he's so big and strong and powerful he'd have to have 10 or 15 a game.”

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  • The story Win a showcase for NicNat, McGovern first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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