Naitanui playing for West Coast in April 2018
|Full name||Nicholas Mark Naitanui|
|Date of birth||4 May 1990|
|Place of birth||Penrith, New South Wales|
|Original team(s)||Midvale JFC|
|Draft||No. 2, 2008 national draft|
|Height||201 cm (6 ft 7 in)|
|Weight||110 kg (243 lb)|
|Current club||West Coast|
|2009–||West Coast||161 (102)|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of end of 2018.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Nicholas Mark Naitanui (//; born 4 May 1990) is an Australian rules footballer who plays for the West Coast Eagles in the Australian Football League (AFL). Born in Sydney to Fijian parents, his family moved to Perth, Western Australia after his father's death. Growing up in Midvale, Naitanui attended Governor Stirling Senior High School, and played football for the Midvale Junior Football Club. After representing Western Australia in the 2007 and 2008 AFL Under 18 Championships, he debuted in 2008 for the Swan Districts Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). Naitanui was drafted by West Coast with the second pick in the 2008 National Draft.
Naitanui made his AFL debut for West Coast in round 12 of the 2009 season, against Richmond. He played ten games in his debut season, and received one Brownlow Medal vote for a three-goal game against Hawthorn. In his second season, Naitanui played every game, primarily as a back-up ruckman to Dean Cox, taking over the position of Mark Seaby, who was traded the previous season. Having started the season as the favourite for the AFL Rising Star, Naitanui finished 5th overall. In the 2011 season, he played 23 games, including his first finals matches, and was also nominated for Mark of the Year. He was named in the All-Australian team the following season, as the first-choice ruckman.
Along with his twin brother, Mark, Naitanui was born to Bola and Atetha Naitanui on 4 May 1990 in Penrith, New South Wales. His parents, originally from Suvavou, a small village near Suva, had emigrated to Australia from Fiji the previous year, with his two elder siblings, Georgie and Laisani, remaining in Fiji. His father died from cancer the year after Naitanui and his brother were born. After his father's death, his mother moved the family to Perth, Western Australia, where her brother lived. His mother began working at Homeswest, a public housing authority, and also volunteered at a homeless shelter. Naitanui grew up in Midvale, near Midland, and attended Midvale Primary School. He took up playing football at the age of nine, when he began playing for the Midvale Junior Football Club. As a child, he lived on Bushby Street in Midvale, along with Shane Yarran, Michael Walters and Chris Yarran, who would all go on to play AFL football. Two further AFL players, David Ellard and Jeff Garlett, also played with Naitanui, Walters, Chris Yarran and Shane Yarran at the Midvale Junior Football Club.
Naitanui attended Governor Stirling Senior High School and played football there, as well as for his club, the Swan Districts Colts (underage) side in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). During his time in junior and colts football, he played predominantly in the ruck, however he also was used on the wing or at full-back. Naitanui also excelled at basketball and track and field events, particularly high jump, and was asked by recruiters to trial with American universities, but declined to do so.
In the 2007 Under-18 AFL National Championships, Naitanui was dominant in the ruck for Western Australia, and was named Best On Ground in the final. Following his performance, he was hotly pursued by several AFL clubs. However, he was born a few days too late to qualify for the 2007 AFL draft. He was named in the Under-18 All-Australian Team in both 2007 and 2008, and was awarded a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport to become a member of the AIS/AFL Academy Squad.
A much-hyped Naitanui was invited to the 2008 AFL Draft Camp and his results were impressive. He managed to equal the running vertical jump record previously set by Jared Brennan, but fell short of Trent Croad's standing jump record. His sprint, agility and endurance tests were also impressive.
Many media commentators believed that Naitanui was in contention to be taken as the number 1 pick in the 2008 AFL Draft. The Melbourne Football Club, who retained that pick, had looked at Naitanui, but raised concerns about his skill level, in particular his kicking, and instead selected Victorian Jack Watts.
2009–2015: Early career
Naitanui was taken at pick No. 2 overall in the 2008 AFL Draft by the West Coast Eagles. As a highly rated future player by John Worsfold, Naitanui was given the number 9 guernsey, becoming the first West Coast Eagles player to wear the number since Brownlow Medalist and former captain Ben Cousins left the club at the end of the 2007 season. His first game at the senior level was on 13 June 2009 when he was named to play against Richmond in game 12 of the 2009 season.
His career suffered a setback, however, during pre-season training when he experienced knee soreness and had precautionary surgery.
Naitanui impressed enough in the WAFL in a game where he accumulated 15 possessions, 21 hit-outs, 4 goals and a spectacular mark, to earn his selection in the round 12 against Richmond at Etihad Stadium.
His debut game impressed many, demonstrating his athletic ability with another spectacular mark as well as 3 kicks, 8 handballs, 3 marks and 7 hitouts. In his second game against premiers Hawthorn at Subiaco, Naitanui was quiet for the first three quarters but dazzled in the fourth, kicking three goals and leading his team to a come-from-behind win.
Naitanui was honoured with a nomination for the AFL Rising Star in round 4, 2010 in the West Coast Eagles win over the Essendon Bombers, a match where Naitanui dominated with 13 disposals, 5 tackles and 17 hitouts. Naitanui took out the West Coast's Rookie of the Year Award for the 2010 Season and finished fifth in the 2010 Club Champion Award.
On 17 September 2012 Naitanui earned his first All Australian Team nomination being named as the starting Ruckman.
On the Friday Night game against North Melbourne in round 8, 2013, Naitanui took a memorable pack mark 30m out with seconds left on the clock. He proceeded to kick a goal after the siren to win the game by 2 points, becoming the 35th AFL player to do so.
2016–2018: ACL ruptures
In round 21, during the 2016 season, Naitanui kicked a goal with 4 seconds remaining against the GWS Giants, winning the game for the Eagles. He ruptured his ACL in the following game, and missed the rest of the 2016 season.
During the 2018 season, Naitanui was suspended for a week following a tackle on Port Adelaide's Karl Amon. The decision was heavily criticised by the AFL media and past players where it was believed he was punished for being the stronger player in the tackle.
In round 17 of the 2018 season, after 15 games back from an injury to his left anterior cruciate ligament, Naitanui landed awkwardly in a contest just before half time of the match against the Collingwood Magpies, suffering the same injury to his right anterior cruciate ligament. He is expected to miss 10–12 months of football after a reconstruction.
- Statistics are correct to the end of round 23, 2018
|Totals||Averages (per game)|
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