Aaron Naughton soaks up the praise of Western Bulldogs fans after the club’s win over Richmond. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith.
Aaron Naughton soaks up the praise of Western Bulldogs fans after the club’s win over Richmond. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith.

‘Even Jesus would have struggled’: Naughton’s heroics hailed

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge believes a stunning five-goal performance from teenage forward Aaron Naughton could be enough to make opposition defences "paranoid" about him.

The 19-year-old from Western Australia was within touching distance of one of the game's great players, Wayne Carey, taking a season-high nine contested marks in the Dogs' emphatic 47-point win over Richmond.

Only Carey, with 10 contested marks, has taken more in a match than Naughton who took 14 for the game and, having been thrown forward by Beveridge after being drafted as a defender, "set a new standard" for himself.

"He's a fair player Duck (Carey), so that's not a bad queue to be in," Beveridge said.

"At times we might have kicked to advantage but there were those he made something out of not much and it shows his athletic capabilities.

"Tonight's a good night for him, it breaks new ground, it sets a new standard, and it makes opposition defences paranoid about him."

Aaron Naughton climbs for a hanger during his dominant performance against Richmond. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images.
Aaron Naughton climbs for a hanger during his dominant performance against Richmond. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images.

Naughton, who conceded he still felt more comfortable in defence, said his "journey" as a forward was only just beginning.

"The last couple of weeks have been a bit frustrating, not having the impact I wanted to have and from Bevo just believing in me that I can produce that form up forward, that showed a little bit tonight," he said.

"I haven't played much time up forward in my career and the journey is only just starting down there. The more I play the more I will lean and become a better player.

"I'd say I'm still more comfortable down back as I know a little bit more but it's definitely something I want to grow in my game."

Minus both Alex Rance and David Astbury the Tigers failed to handle Naughton's aerial capabilities as he took marks both up and the ground and deep in attack.

His nine contested marks was also as many as the entire Richmond team could manage for the match.

The performance led Richmond coach Damien Hardwick to say: "We could have had Jesus Christ playing down there tonight and I reckon he would have struggled on him, to be fair. He was outstanding, some of those marks he was taking."

"He got a fair jump at it tonight," Hardwick said.

"I thought we could have been a little bit better at taking some body contact, putting some body on him, but he was a very dominant player."

Luke Beveridge says Aaron Naughton’s performance against the Tigers will be opposition defences ‘paranoid’. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images.
Luke Beveridge says Aaron Naughton’s performance against the Tigers will be opposition defences ‘paranoid’. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images.

Beveridge said finding a consistent, able key forward was one of football's hardest tasks, and was delighted his decision to thrust Naughton forward had come off, at least once.

"It's a lot harder to find a prolific key forward and land one on your list than a solid key back," he said.

"We know Aaron is a solid key defender, but looking at it early, we thought, they are hard to find, the boys who are in progress and developing aren't quite there yet, and if anyone's going to get there quick it could be Aaron.

We have pushed the envelope there and it's one week, but the other weeks, it's not him hitting the scoreboard, it's helping us function.

"We are fortunate to have him."

Teammate Josh Dunkley, one of the most influential players in the victory, praised Naughton's matchwinning performance.

"It's great to see Aaron do really well. He has worked so hard," Dunkley told the club website.

"He obviously played down back during the pre-season. A couple of rounds in, to get thrown forward and have the impact he is having, is pretty impressive."

The emergence of Naughton came as Beveridge conceded premiership hero Tom Boyd was unlikely to play senior football before the back end of the season.

News Corp Australia


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