How much will Nic Nat’s absence hurt the Eagles?

This year, West Coast are dominating the league in average hit outs per game. The Eagles have managed to rack up 52.8 hit outs each game in 2016, compared to a league average of 40. Melbourne are the league’s second-placed team for hit outs, thanks to the amply-bearded Max Gawn, but even they lag behind the Eagles by nearly 6 hit outs per game. West Coast’s ruck dominance will almost definitely wane a little over the next couple of months, as Nic Naitanui spends 6-8 weeks on the sidelines recovering from Achilles surgery. But how much can we expect the Eagles’ performance to slide? This is a difficult question to answer, as quantifying the contribution of any one player to a team’s performance is messy and inexact. But we can try to get a feel for how the Eagles might perform without Nic Nat by comparing the team’s performance in games with and without him over the past few years. When we

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