NIC NAITANUI has dismissed queries over his fitness, with the West Coast star declaring he's in "good nick" and that the Eagles are "hungry" to respond to last year's Grand Final defeat.
Speaking to reporters as he helped launch the AFL's expanded Multicultural Ambassadors Program, the star ruckman said he is fighting fit despite being managed through an open session last Wednesday.
"That was a cross-training day, so there was about 10 of us who trained indoors on that day. I don't want to get too dark out in the sun. I was swimming indoors that day," Naitanui said.
Naitanui completed his first full pre-season in three years heading into last season and the benefits were obvious.
The No.2 pick from the 2008 NAB AFL Draft was selected in the 40-man All Australian squad and helped drive the Eagles to a surprise Grand Final berth, which ended in a 46-point loss to Hawthorn.
"The body's in good nick and I think the boys are pretty hungry after (Hawthorn) gave us a touch up in the Grand Final," he said.
"We've only had one or two injuries, but most of the guys are fit and loving the Perth summer at the moment."
Naitanui, who was born in Sydney to Fijian parents, joined with Greater Western Sydney midfielder Stephen Coniglio to announce nine new AFL and Australia Post-backed Multicultural Program ambassadors – including two women for the first time – in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Brisbane Lions vice-captain Dayne Zorko, Tom Hawkins (Geelong), Tendai Mzungu (Fremantle), Adam Saad and Tom Nicholls (Gold Coast), Aliir Aliir (Sydney Swans) and Jason Johannisen (Western Bulldogs) boost the AFL player ambassadors to 16.
They join David Zaharakis (Essendon), Paul Puopolo and Shem Tatupu (Hawthorn), Alipate Carlile and Jimmy Toumpas (Port Adelaide), Bachar Houli (Richmond) and Lin Jong (Western Bulldogs) in the program.
There are now 13 clubs represented, while multicultural players make up 15 per cent of club lists across the AFL, and Naitanui hopes to see the ambassadors program continue expanding.
"The sky's the limit," Naitanui said. "I'd love to have 50-odd ambassadors representing all the clubs in the AFL.
"We need to keep pushing it … and driving multiculturalism and diversity in our game. Because as diverse as it probably does look up here, it's probably not a true reflection of the diverse people in the game, so the more the merrier."
Female footballers Sabrina Frederick-Traub (Melbourne) and Darcy Vescio (Western Bulldogs) both appeared in exhibition matches last season and are keen to raise awareness of the sport among multicultural communities before the launch of a women's League in 2017.
"Seeing as though it's a male-dominated sport, if the men are struggling getting multicultural men involved as well, for women it's even more so," Vescio said.
"I think there's a lot of work to be done, but there's definitely a lot of girls involved in footy so I think it's a good opportunity to spread the word. A lot of women don't know that there is women's footy, so that's a start."
The ambassadors will begin their duties during the Australia Post AFL Community Camps next month, where they will meet fans during school visits, community receptions and super clinics.
Coniglio, who is of Italian descent, said it wasn't a battle with other sports codes to secure talent, with the focus instead on promoting sport in multicultural communities.
"I love soccer, I love AFL, the tennis is on at the moment, I love that," he said.
"I don't think it should come to a stage where we're actually fighting against each other, but more embracing every culture, background and where they come from."
The AFL will stage Multicultural Round in round 16 this season.
The Multicultural Ambassadors at the launch on Thursday. Picture: AFL Media