Nic Naitanui is still recovering from a knee injury.
Nic Naitanui is still recovering from a knee injury. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Naitanui could face season on the sidelines

AFL: West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has detailed his mental battle after a knee reconstruction and admits he might not return to the field until 2018.

In an exclusive interview with 7 News Perth, Naitanui provided a glimpse into his recovery program, which often starts pre-dawn at Jacob's Ladder.

And he said the work involved in returning from the anterior cruciate ligament he tore against Hawthorn late in the 2016 season was more mentally taxing than he had expected.

"I knew the journey would be hard but never did I think it was as tough as it has been," Naitanui said.

"I think my mind probably plays tricks on me ... learning to walk was something I never thought I'd have to do ... just learning how to put one foot in front the other."

Exclusive training vision shows Naitanui being put through his footballing paces inside at the Eagles' headquarters, with the 26-year-old admitting he was still building trust in his injured leg.

Part of his right hamstring was removed and transplanted to replace the torn ACL in his left.

"Because my left knee is stuffed, I go through my right knee a bit more," he said.

Naitanui has previously moved to reassure supporters that he would be back in 2017 but he is now prepared to take a more conservative approach if need be.

"It could be round one, 2018 at the news stadium," he said of his comeback.

"That's something good to look forward to but at the same time it's so far away.

"If I was in my last year [of footy] I'd really have a crack [at playing this year]. But I've got to be smart about it and look to my long-term future."

News Corp Australia


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