Naitanui takes rising star nomination - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Naitanui takes rising star nomination

20/04/2010 03:15:45 PM Comments (0)

Emerging AFL ruck talent Nic Naitanui hopes Dean Cox's return to full fitness won't relegate him to a spot on the bench.

Naitanui has starred as West Coast's leading ruckman this year and earned a round four nomination for the Rising Star award after his standout game against Essendon on Friday night.

But with Cox nearing peak form after having his 2009 campaign ruined by a serious groin complaint, Naitanui knows his time as the club's No.1 ruckman might be coming to an end - for the time being at least.

"It's good to actually start on the field," Naitanui said on Tuesday.

"I don't know if Coxy likes it on the bench too much but I'm sure it will change around soon.

"I will either start on the bench or up forward when he's up and going at full flight.

"As you saw from last week he's nearly there, he's doing really well.

"So if we can get both of us on the field at the same time we can have a bit more of an impact."

Cox was one of Naitanui's heroes growing up and has been instrumental in the 19-year-old's development since the dreadlocked youngster was drafted by West Coast with pick No.2 in the 2008 national draft.

Naitanui played 10 matches last year but has elevated his game to a new level this season, with his prowess in the ruck and at ground level leaving opponents and team-mates in awe of his ability.

"I've progressed a bit from last year but in saying that it's only been four games so there's a long way to go still," Naitanui said.

"I'm looking to improve and do better as the season goes by.

"My positioning around the ground is my main focus at the moment.

"Having Coxy out there and watching him out there has helped me out a bit but my main focus coming into games is where I am when the ball's not in my area.

"It's something I'm still working on.

"I think my kicks are still a bit unnatural as well.

"It's not like a Daniel Kerr or a Shannon Hurn type kick.

"I'm still improving every week and I spend a lot of time during the week on my kicking."

West Coast coach John Worsfold has been pleased with Naitanui's development.

"He is still learning but has a great appetite for the game, so he's a great young player to coach," Worsfold said.

"We knew when we drafted Nic that he had some special qualities and we are already seeing some of those qualities on display."

Naitanui now stands at 201cm - 3cm taller than when he first joined the club.

"Hopefully I'll stop growing soon or I might not be able to fit through the doors," he said with a laugh.

And Naitanui said he had no problem dealing with the hype surrounding his development.

"The club and my family keep me pretty level headed and down to earth," he said.

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