West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui says he won’t hesitate in unleashing another angry retaliation if anyone else tries to pull his hair during the AFL finals series.
Naitanui copped a $1000 fine for slamming Zach Merrett into the fence after the Essendon midfielder tugged on one of his dreadlocks during last week’s elimination final in Perth.
Merrett also copped a $1000 fine for the incident.
Naitanui felt he had every right to react in an angry manner, and says he won’t hesitate to deal out more punishments if the situation arises.
“I think I’ll react the same way if someone did it again,” Naitanui said ahead of Friday night’s semi-final showdown against Geelong at the MCG.
“If someone came and punched you in the face, you’re not going to let them punch you in the face and walk away.
“Teams are trying to find that one per cent to get under your skin or do something, and I don’t think it was an intentional kind of real angry move toward me.
“We both apologised to each other and we had a laugh about it.
“And then I spoke to a few Essendon boys after. I think some of them were trying to sell a replica dread of mine online.
“It was all fun and games. But because of the vicinity of where it was and so close to supporters – probably not the greatest look.”
Nic Nat was NOT HAPPY 😳
— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 5, 2019
Naitanui said he was surprised to have his hair pulled during a professional sports game.
“I’ve seen it happen in the schoolyard with younger kids, but I hadn’t seen it (in a professional setting) since George Smith playing for the Wallabies,” Naitanui said.
“The South Africans used to do it as a bit of a token – whoever can get a dreadlock was seen as the beneficiary and the winner.”
Naitanui tallied 24 hitouts and 14 disposals against the Bombers – a promising return in his first game back from a serious ankle injury.
The 29-year-old played just 53 per cent game time against the Bombers, but that figure will rise against the Cats after his ankle pulled up with no issues.
Importantly, Naitanui was able to prove that his recent spate of injuries had not robbed him of his trademark leap or speed.
At one point, Naitanui was able to run down Essendon speedster Adam Saad.
“Once you’re out there your instinct takes over, and playing footy you don’t think about hurting yourself,” Naitanui said.
“It’s good to see I’m able to do that still and pull up ok.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott chose to dump Rhys Stanley for last week’s 10-point loss to Collingwood, but the 200cm ruckman is almost certain to be recalled against West Coast.