Nic Naitanui and Josh Kennedy have turned in masterclasses as the West Coast Eagles overcame a 22-point deficit to secure an impressive win over Geelong.
Lauded by many as premiership favourites coming into the match, the Eagles were rocked early by a sharp Geelong side before running out 11. 7. (73) to 10. 4. (64) winners at Optus Stadium.
In his first match against the team that drafted him, Tim Kelly provided an instant impact assisting Kennedy’s first goal of the match after a break out of the middle.
Kelly made a fast start before finishing with 23 disposals and three tackles, and he admitted he was glad to get the match-up with his ex-teammates over with.
“I’m certainly glad it’s over and we got the four points,” he told Seven after the game.
“I’m glad to get that one out of the way, I’m looking forward to these battles and they weren’t at full strength tonight.
“They’re a proud group and I’m sure we’re going to play again in time at the end of this year.
“It was great having a little bit of banter on the field with a few of the boys.”
Kelly said the Eagles were able to turn around the deficit early in the second-half by cutting off Geelong’s kicking game.
“They were pretty good by foot tonight,” he said.
“They were able to get their marks and once we started to force them longer down the line and play the game in a contest, we started to get on top.”
The story of the second half was the domination of Naitanui and Kennedy, who linked up for a wonderful stoppage goal in the fourth quarter as West Coast surged ahead.
Naitanui reinforced his case for being one of the most influential big men in the competition, finishing with 34 hitouts to go along with his 10 disposals and four clearances.
After a quite first three quarters, Kennedy burst to life in the final stanza, booting three vital goals, including the virtual game-sealer in the final two minutes.
West Coast’s win vaults it into the top four, something that seemed inconceivable after a slow start to the season just weeks ago.
Geelong drop to sixth on the ladder following the loss, eight points adrift of the ladder-leading Brisbane and Port Adelaide.