The West

Why Nic Nat isn t worth the money
Why Nic Nat isn't worth the money

Re-signing Nic Naitanui should be a high priority for West Coast. But at $1 million a year for five years? Time to take a deep breath.

Talk of Naitanui's possible contract value is speculation rather than fact.

But right now so is talk of Naitanui's on-field worth after an injury-plagued 12 months.


Naitanui is a terrific person, may be the best marketing tool in the AFL and hot property - an obvious target for a club like Greater Western Sydney.

But Naitanui's first job is playing, not marketing. And injuries have prevented him from doing much of that for more than a year.

The Eagles must weigh Naitanui's obvious potential carefully against the current reality.

He is potentially the AFL's most imposing athlete. In six months he might be the best ruckman in the game. At 24 he might just be coming into his peak, having already secured an All-Australian jumper in 2012.

The reality is Naitanui has not finished higher than fifth in the best and fairest and he did that four years ago when the Eagles finished last.

He hasn't been higher than seventh since and, in his second consecutive "managed" pre- season, is yet to play this year.

You have to look beyond Naitanui's statistics to gauge impact, but in 2013 you had to look a long way to get beyond them, sometimes further than the eye could see. He didn't play before round six or after round 17.

He is one of the game's most influential stoppage players but in seven of the 11 games he played last year, West Coast were beaten at the clearances.

Six of those 11 games were against teams that finished outside of the top eight and a seventh was against Essendon, who were excluded from the finals and had the wobbles by the time the Eagles played them in round 14.

At the risk of sounding like a superannuation advertisement, compare his stats to Fremantle's Zac Clarke, then compare the price tags.

Naitanui is a re-signing priority. The Eagles will lose one of their greats, Dean Cox, in a year or two and have had a successor in place since Naitanui emerged. But they should be careful not to get his marketing value confused with his playing value and they should not be afraid to stand their ground for a while on this one.

West Coast have not needed much marketing for 15 years now, having sold almost everything they have to sell and returned multi-million-dollar profits regardless of ladder position.

Naitanui says Perth is his home, West Coast is his club and he would be loath to shift. That doesn't sound like a player you should have to pay $1 million a year over five seasons to keep.


The West Australian

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