Eagle Naitanui keen for more hangers

He knows how to dunk it, but West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui hopes it won’t be long before he starts to regularly mark it.

Naitanui has been in good form this season, playing a key role in West Coast’s rise up to second spot on the ladder.

The 25-year-old boasts an enviable array of talents. His deft ruck work, hard tackling and awesome athleticism has made him a fan favourite in the AFL.

And he left the basketball world buzzing in 2012 when he jumped over the on-court announcer to unleash a dazzling slam dunk during the halftime break of a Perth Wildcats’ game.

Naitanui has produced plenty of pack-mark screamers during his 115-game AFL career, but he’s only been able to take six marks in seven games this season.

The 201cm ruckman has been happy with most aspects of his game this year, rating his hit-outs to advantage as his most important asset.

And he’s confident the spectacular grabs will soon follow.

“I think the thing I hear the most is, ‘When is Nic Nat going to take another mark?’ That’s probably the biggest one,” Naitanui said.

“We (practise) it every training session. It’s just about being in a position to do it more times during a game than I am.

“Hopefully spending a bit more time up forward can contribute to that and (I can) kick a few more goals.”

Naitanui has enjoyed the responsibility of being the club’s No.1 ruckman since Dean Cox’s retirement last year.

And unlike recent seasons when he was troubled by groin issues, Naitanui is feeling fit, fresh, and raring to go.

“The body’s feeling pretty good,” said Naitanui, who took part in the AFL’s Multicultural Gala Day in Perth on Monday.

“I remember this time last year I was feeling pretty sore.”

West Coast will be aiming to make it five wins on the trot when they take on St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with the return of star defender Jeremy McGovern (corked calf) a major boost.

Naitanui’s star has continued to rise since being snared by West Coast with pick No.2 in the 2008 national draft.

But the same can’t be said for the man who went before him – Melbourne’s Jack Watts.

The 24-year-old Demon dropped himself to the VFL last week, and Naitanui said he felt for what Watts is going through.

“I guess anyone who goes early in the draft is going to cop it a fair bit, especially in their home state,” Naitanui said.

“But if he keeps working on what he works on, he’ll be back in the team in no time.”

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