Nic Naitanui of the West Coast Eagles.
Nic Naitanui of the West Coast Eagles. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Nic Nat won't risk setback

AFL: West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui is eyeing a return to football some time after round 15 next season - but only if there is no risk to his future well-being.

The 26-year-old underwent a knee reconstruction in August, in which a tendon was taken from his right hamstring to repair the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left kne`e.

Back walking, he plans to start running in the new year.

Naitanui tore the ACL after landing innocuously in the round-22 win over Hawthorn at Subiaco.

"It's progressing as well as it probably could be at this stage,” Naitanui (pictured) said of the knee.

"There's no real guarantee with injury, but if everything goes to plan, I'll play towards the end (of next season). I'll be pushing as hard as I can to get back in and play my role.

"We'll determine what happens depending on how the team's going and how I'm going.

"It's one of those things I don't really want to muck around with. If it's not right, I won't come back and play.”

Naitanui has been joined in the medical room by his direct understudy, Scott Lycett, who has suffered a less serious knee injury.

But the All-Australian big man backed Jon Giles and recruits Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie to step up for the Eagles, especially with four-time premiership Hawk Sam Mitchell now there to help direct play.

"The guys will get it done. Our midfield is pretty good. Obviously, having the introduction of Sammy Mitchell down there will help as well,” Naitanui said.

- TERRY MALLINDER



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