NIC NAITANUI describes his 2014 season as "pretty tough" but is excited about the prospect of his first uninterrupted pre-season in two years.
The 2012 All Australian ruckman has failed to scale the heights he reached in that season due to consecutive injury-ravaged pre-seasons.
"Obviously it's been difficult when you miss a fair chunk in the summer," Naitanui told AFL.com.au.
"But we were well aware of what was coming and what we were going to face throughout the year."
It has been a long road back to full fitness for Naitanui. Ongoing groin soreness following surgery at the end of the 2012 season all but ruined his 2013 campaign.
Naitanui missed the first five rounds and on return played without the freedom and awesome athleticism he displayed the previous year. He was shut down for the final six games of the season as the Eagles slumped to 13th on the ladder.
His 2014 pre-season also didn't go to plan as he again had to significantly ease off his workload to avoid further groin issues. He has also dealt with a lingering Achilles issue throughout the season.
Naitanui is one of the game's biggest stars but also one of its most divisive figures. First-year coach Adam Simpson said earlier this season that he was staggered at the week-to-week commentary on his ruckman from media and fans.
Following a match-winning performance against Gold Coast in round 13, Naitanui was lauded as one of the most valuable and influential players in the AFL. Two weeks later after failing to register a single kick or mark against Fremantle, there were strong calls for him to be dropped to the WAFL.
Naitanui has been unmoved by the incessant external noise.
"For myself, as long as you're meeting your goals internally you don't really worry about the outside influence," Naitanui said.
"I guess consistency is a little thing that was touched on a bit and just getting my body right.
"I'm really looking forward to this pre-season coming up."
He will assume the mantle as the senior ruckman at West Coast this pre-season when his close friend and mentor Dean Cox retires at the end of the season.
Naitanui said it's sad to see his idol, and his greatest influence, finish his illustrious career.
"It's pretty tough because he's been someone who everyone has looked up to," Naitanui said.
"But for me in particular, having him as a mentor, it's pretty difficult to see him going.
"He's been amazing. I've been pretty privileged to have someone of his calibre to learn off.
"He's probably the best ruckman I've seen since I started watching footy and if you throw up names like Polly Farmer and Simon Madden and those types of guys I reckon he's up there with the best of them.
"Being a ruckman especially, coming into the club and having someone so mobile, not like your typical ruckman that you're used to seeing, someone who is so skilful on both sides of his body, I couldn't think of a better person to learn off and learn from."
Cox is yet to confirm what he will do in 2015. He is the playing ruck-coach at the Eagles but has not sat down with West Coast hierarchy to discuss a full-time coaching role next season.
Naitanui is hopeful he stays in the Eagles' nest.
"Fingers crossed he is here in some capacity in the next few years as a coach or helping out with the rucks," Naitanui said.