The sight of families huddled around the beds of young men fighting for their lives has spurred Eagles star Nic Naitanui to stand against binge drinking.

He was alarmed to see it when good mate and then Swan Districts player Luke Adams lay in an induced coma in 2011 as a result of alcohol-fuelled violence.

Naitanui said he could not believe what he saw in intensive care - devastated families left to pick up the pieces because too many young men did not know when to stop drinking.

And though the 23-year-old gets asked to support many charities and good causes, he says he did not think twice about becoming an ambassador for the AFL Players Association's pledge against binge drinking.

Launched last year, the campaign's message is "Be The Influence". It is part of a national binge-drinking strategy across 16 sporting organisations and funded by the Federal Government.

Naitanui, Adelaide midfielder Patrick Dangerfield and Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury were hand-picked for the role.

In an exclusive interview, Naitanui explains for the first time why he put his hand up to tackle the binge-drinking tradition entrenched in the community.

"After what I saw with Luke, it was a no-brainer," Naitanui said.

"My personal experience with mates really hit home how binge drinking is a massive culture in Australia and is present in footy.

"Guys my age are out there at the weekend drinking and unfortunately when they don't know they've had enough, it can turn into violence.

"There's something like 70 people under 25 who end up in hospital each week in Australia because of these assaults and that's such a massive number."

Naitanui said Adams was lucky to get through devastating injuries but some did not survive.

He feels a responsibility on their behalf to get the message out to the thousands of fans who look up to their sporting heroes.

"This is not about trying to say to guys my age don't drink, and it's not saying having a drink is bad," Naitanui said. "It's about not having so much that you end up doing something silly."

The star ruckman enjoys a social drink but mostly in the off-season because rigorous training means he is often just too tired at the end of the day to drink.

Though alcohol is still a big part of football culture, the reality is elite players cannot afford to be out drinking every week.

Naitanui said the AFL had also driven a big change to encourage players to plan ahead when going out, including who would drive.

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth director Mike Daube said Naitanui deserved credit for taking a lead in an area of strong public concern.

"This has great potential to help change the binge-drinking culture and we need more Nic Naitanuis as genuine role models for the next generation," he said.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West