Nic Nat set to break free
Nic Nat set to break free

Nic Naitanui says his body is feeling the best it has all season and that he is close to unleashing his A-game, starting on Saturday against Collingwood at the MCG.

The West Coast ruckman said he was using the barrage of criticism levelled at him this year as motivation and thanked Adam Simpson for his support in his ongoing battle to regain full fitness and form.

The 24-year-old stressed he was improving as the Eagles try to bury a two-decade hoodoo at the home of Australian sport.

West Coast have not beaten the Magpies at the MCG since round two, 1995, losing all eight of their meetings at the venue since.

Naitanui is expected to sign a new four or five-year deal worth in the vicinity of $800,000 a year as early as this week.

He said the negotiations in the midst of a year where he had averaged just 11 disposals a game - the lowest since his 2009 debut season - had not been a distraction.

He said he had been surprised at the ferocity of criticism from former AFL champions Scott Lucas, Garry Lyon and Tony Shaw.

Lucas, a 270-game premiership forward with Essendon, was particularly brutal in his assessment of Naitanui, labelling him "very ordinary" after the round-six loss to Carlton.

"I guess everyone has their opinion and you cop it at some stage," Naitanui said.

"But that's just football. What better motivation to have than that happening outside of football. It hasn't affected me too much."

Naitanui, speaking at a multicultural gala day in Ferndale, said he had completed a personal running and skills program set for the bye week rather than being forced to rest completely.

"I am the best I've been this season," he said.

"Coming up now I've had that building block and throughout the weeks at training. Even my game time early on in the year, I've played limited game time.

"It's all been managed pretty closely. It's something that happens behind the scenes that most people don't see. I'm coming up to my best footy again coming into this next block."

Recurring groin problems and a pre-season Achilles injury meant Naitanui entered 2014 with limited match fitness.

He admitted he had been pulling up sore after games early in the season.

"I'm not really going to make excuses for myself, saying I was injured because if I was that injured I wouldn't be out on the park," Naitanui said.

"For me it was just about getting that game load and game time into me and being ready for this next half of the year."

The West Australian

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