Opinion Unpopular Opinion: Naitanui is a better ruck than Cox

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eaglespremiers

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I've long thought this but I've usually been in a very small minority.
I think now at the twilight of Naitanui's career this is a pertinent discussion (and my opinion is less divisive).

Dean Cox is credited with reinventing the ruck position. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant as I don't think the type of ruck typified by Cox is the ideal.
Instead I think Naitanui is the prototype of the perfect ruckman. Naitanui has a finesse with his taps that is unparalleled in modern football. While Cox was no slouch in this area and was, at times, sublime, Naitanui's sustained brilliance in this regard (with a lesser midfield) is something to behold. The disparity between the exquisite nature of Naitanui's taps in the last two weeks and say Brodie Grundy who had 23 hit-outs to advantage on Thursday but a rather sedated impact on the game is telling.

Then there is Naitanui's clearance work. He bullies opponents around the contest. Not only does this result in many clearances directly to Naitanui, it also opens up space for his teammates to clear the ball. Both Sheed and Kelly have been the recipients of this work (along with his taps) over the first three weeks of the season. Dean Cox was a decent clearance ruckman in his time, but he was ordinarily not needed to provide this service because of the players at his feet.

Then there is his aerial prowess. This is generally considered a weakness for Naitanui (notwithstanding some unbelievable grabs pre-injury) and Cox was very good (and important) in taking uncontested link up marks down the wings. Plus he was known for falling down back to shore up our defence at vital times in close games. Having said this most of us have seen Naitanui's ability to halve contests and refuse to get beaten, even if he doesn't win the marking contest outright. Often this will result in a West Coast player streaming from the back flank or wing position. Otherwise a bounce or throw in ensues. I think very few players in the AFL have the ability to halve a contest like Naitanui does.

Also as a final uncompelling argument I've never seen Naitanui do any windmilling, which became an unsatisfactory attribute of Cox's later career.

Initially the disparity between Cox and Naitanui's accolades was substantial.
After all Cox finished his career with six All-Australians (one or two may be controversial, looking at you 2012) and a B&F.

However, as time goes on Naitanui has whittled away these differences (how much weight you should put on any of them is contentious).
Naitanui now has two All-Australians (and was decidedly unlucky in 2015) and a B&F.

More than all the above I think Nic has become the heart and soul of our club.
Early on he was directly responsible for a number of wins (the games against Hawthorn, North and GWS come to mind).
But now win, lose or draw he is at the forefront of willing our team over the line (see last week).
While Cox was part of the leadership structure I never felt like the drive was from him. I always felt that it was Cousins or Judd who willed us into games (or to winning games).
When Naitanui lifts the whole team lifts. He was one of two vital players in a game against St Kilda. In the final against Collingwood he was the only player who seemed not be playing within himself and almost shell shocked from the outset.

He is a goliath amongst men. He has overcome ridiculous odds to even compete again let alone be the best in the business. This may be considered an outlandish statement but I do not believe that we will ever see a player of his ilk in our lifetime.
Whether we win another premiership during his playing days or not I consider it the greatest privilege as a supporter to watch him go out, rest on his haunches and menacingly prowl the centre bounce like a caged lion. He epitomises the club and what I love about football.

 

HoneyBadger35

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Dean Cox ushered in a new era of mobile and skilled ruckmen, with clubs looking to emulate what he did for West Coast.

Nic Naitanui is a once in a lifetime star who will not usher in a new era of imitators, because he can’t be imitated.

It’s not to say one is better than the other (as a tap ruckman Nic is surely the best in history but the position doesn’t start and stop with the ruck duel), but I’m just happy I’ve been able to witness two brilliant careers of position defining dominance.
 

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omgfridge

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Cox absolutely deserved that 2012 AA.

Still have Cox ahead because his career/changing the game was just so massive. Nic is definitely better in an actual contest and I completely agree he epitomizes West Coast. He may eventually take over Cox if he keeps dominating like is but not so sure. Both are walk ins to our best ever 22.
 

THE A5

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To win 6 AA's is not something thats easy lets remember especially for players from the West. He revolutionised the ruck men but in the near future we might see some young ruckmen following in Nics footsteps.
 

numbat06

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Depends if you'd rather a ruck like Grundy who gets a lot of the ball and covers the ground or Nic Nat who dominates the ruck/contested ball. I'd rather Nat as he has a larger effect on the game, he's pretty much an extra inside mid with the amount of clearances he gets and his big body around the contest can't be replaced.
 

navi_

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Cox is still the only ruckman I've seen run by for the handball receive because he was actually elite by foot.

Left or right side
 

bzparkes

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Mate, before reading this thread I wanted to start a thread on something like this. Honestly, as amazing as Cox was, Naitanui is going to be somebody almost impossible to replicate. Hitting the ball wherever you want(Shuey) is something that will be so hard to do for other teams. Just a joy to watch.
 

squashface

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Both in their prime, playing for different teams, who wins in their position out of NN and Cox? NN probably beats him in the ruck but Cox absolutely wins around the ground so there is your answer. Different players so hard to compare.
 

THE A5

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Cox is still the only ruckman I've seen run by for the handball receive because he was actually elite by foot.

Left or right side
Yeah cox mobility and foot skills are still unmatched. Grundy probably the best these days at it even he isn't close to Coxy's kicking or mobility.
 

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sdb4884

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Naitanui is better at Pure Ruck Work but Cox was just amazing around the ground and had amazing ball skills for a Ruckman and didn't need a rest.
 

Rowan18

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I think you're forgetting just how good Cox was. He could not only save the game by taking a mark in defence, but could go forward and kick the match winner. Deserved his 2012 AA because of how damaging he was playing forward. Could also have played Fullback if we needed him. Add to that, he was a good tap ruckman and also an outside midfielder (with his aerobic capability and skills). I'd take Cox any day.

Nic Nat is a great ruckman but he has serious limitations. His inability to play more than 60% TOG is causing us serious issues with team selection (arguably cost us the game against Bulldogs as we got it wrong). If we had prime Cox instead, we would not have this issue at all.
 

Westend

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I think you're forgetting just how good Cox was. He could not only save the game by taking a mark in defence, but could go forward and kick the match winner. Deserved his 2012 AA because of how damaging he was playing forward. Could also have played Fullback if we needed him. Add to that, he was a good tap ruckman and also an outside midfielder (with his aerobic capability and skills). I'd take Cox any day.

Nic Nat is a great ruckman but he has serious limitations. His inability to play more than 60% TOG is causing us serious issues with team selection (arguably cost us the game against Bulldogs as we got it wrong). If we had prime Cox instead, we would not have this issue at all.
It amazing people tend to forget and can only see what is in front of them

Post above is spot on

We love both but I would take Cox over Nicnat...

Cox can regularly mark which nicnat struggles with
Cox can play out the whole game which Nicnat can not which effect's selection of other players
Cox skills off both feet....his ability to kick to the forwards was sublime
Cox can play forward and back and take the saving mark ..plus when defenders are looking to kick it down the line....Cox would provide that outlet..
Cox was an extra midfielder... he ran rucks off there legs
Nicnat has Cox for HO and HO to advantage...,but coxie was no slouch in this area...his tapwork to Cuz Kerr and Judd was awesome

I love Nicnat but Coxie is better
 

Luuuc

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Purely as a ruckman I agree that Naitanui is better. As a complete package it's hard to go past Cox.
We're blessed to have had 2 of the best to ever do it both at our club.
 

Ambrose Burnside

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In the all-time West Coast side, Cox is starting ruckman, Nic Nat on the bench.

We have 4 premiership ruckmen (Harding, Turnball, Lycett and Vardy) that don't make the cut.
 

RanaNaved

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Their games are nothing alike, but they were/are dominant.

If you compiled a list of strengths and weaknesses, Cox would have more of the good and less of the bad.....But, I think NN influences games more.

Then there's the intangibles. The mids are so confident with a physical beast standing with them, and the opposition panic at the sight of him.
 

TY24

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Cox paved the way for the modern mobile ruckman like Gawn and Grundy through hard work and dedication to his craft.

Nic is just a freak of nature whose natural gifts lend themselves well to the position. Technically speaking, his actual football skills around the ground are nothing special and he’ll never be a high possession winner. But to be 100+ kg and still leap over each and every opponent he faces, and have the deft touch that he does to deliver to his rovers, is a once in a generation combination.
 

MrWoollie

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Pure tap to advantage stuff is Naitanuis biggest asset. His ability to generate his own centre clearance is also unique. Both better than Cox.
Negative is his fragility and limited game time even when fit.

Cox, as mentioned, re-invented the ruck role. He was a 80%+ game time kind of guy who had immense influence around the ground as well. He basically rucked then became a giant on baller. This made him impossible to match up on. His skills were elite and he just used to run the opposition ruck(s) ragged.
Basically the opposition had to go with two rucks just to try to counter Cox.

At the end of the day we are lucky to have had not just one them play for us, but both.
 

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