West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui says he will have no fears when he makes his highly-anticipated AFL return in Saturday’s clash with Hawthorn at the MCG.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson confirmed on Monday that Naitanui will be named against the Hawks.
Naitanui tore the ACL in his right knee in his previous appearance at the MCG – a round 17 win over Collingwood last year.
The 29-year-old made a successful playing return in the WAFL last Saturday, tallying 10 disposals, 25 hitouts, four tackles, and three marks in 64 minutes of action.
Naitanui pulled up with the expected general soreness after that game, but it won’t stop him from fronting the Hawks.
The 2012 All-Australian has now undergone a reconstruction on each knee, but says he holds no fears ahead of his latest return.
“It would be really exciting to get back out there. A feeling of elation as well,” Naitanui said.
“(The MCG) is where I did my knee last time.
“I don’t think I will have any fears of the ground or the opposition at all, it will be more so just a bit of excitement to be back out there playing footy.
“These guys train me pretty hard behind closed doors. Playing a game is probably the least of my worries.
“And getting injured in a game – they whack me enough here at training. So not fearful at all.”
Naitanui doesn’t believe he’s lost any of his trademark leap, and he’s looking forward to taking advantage of the AFL’s new 6-6-6 rule.
“I still think I can jump just as well as in the past,” Naitanui said.
“My recent knee I had done was my right one. I jump off my left leg, so I don’t think it’s going to change too much.”
Naitanui made a stunning return from his first knee reconstruction, and hopes are high he can repeat that effort.
West Coast will play two ruckmen while Naitanui works his way back to full fitness, with Tom Hickey the favourite to get the nod ahead of Nathan Vardy.
Naitanui signed a three-year contract extension on Sunday, tying him to the Eagles until the end of 2022.
The 161-game veteran was thankful for the show of faith from the club, given he now has two “compromised knees”.
“I think I’ve still got a lot of good footy ahead of me,” Naitanui said.
West Coast will welcome back Willie Rioli from suspension against the Hawks, but Jeremy McGovern will miss unless the Eagles can successfully overturn his one-match ban at the AFL tribunal.