New deal not affecting Nic Nat s form
New deal not affecting Nic Nat's form

Nic Naitanui says his looming contract deal has not been a distraction this year and has played no part in his battle with form early in the season.

The 24-year-old is believed to be ready to sign off on a fresh playing deal worth about $800,000 a year from as early as this week.

The multi-year contract has come at a delicate time for both Naitanui and West Coast, with the star ruckman proving slow to return to his athletic best on the field after two injury-interrupted seasons.

Naitanui denied the public interest in his contract had contributed to his poor form.

“We spoke about that towards the end of last year knowing I was going to be out of contract this year,” he said.

“It was always going to get done. It was just a matter of when and I guess what time it was all going to be done.

“(It was) no distraction at all. For me it was just about getting to know the new coach and the new game plan and getting my head around that and then getting my body right as well.”

Groin and Achilles tendon problems have limited Naitanui’s performances for the past two seasons.

But the ruckman said his body was feeling the best it had all season coming off the club’s first bye for the year.

“The body’s feeling good,” he said.

“We’ve had the three or four days off to refresh and get ready for the second half of the year. I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.

“It always feels a lot better after a win, but we’re pretty realistic about where we’re at.”

Naitanui is averaging 11 disposals across his eight games so far this year – his lowest return in terms of possessions per match since his debut year.

His inability to find the football or take regular marks around the ground in 2014 has drawn stinging criticism from several retired AFL champions, including Essendon premiership forward Scott Lucas.

“A lot’s been written (about my form), but I was well aware of what to expect coming into the year,” Naitanui said.

“Obviously with contract talk coming up as well it was going to build to that as well.

“For me my expectation wasn’t any greater than what it had been leading into round one.

“For me it was about getting right knowing I had a limited pre-season. I’m feeling better as the weeks go on.”

The West Australian

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