WEST Coast star Nic Naitanui will be elated to be back against Hawthorn this Saturday and holds no fears returning at the MCG, where he ruptured his "good" right knee last season.
Fresh off a three-year contract extension, Naitanui is primed for his first AFL game since going down in round 17 last year against Collingwood.
The 29-year-old still felt a touch sore on Monday after getting through his WAFL comeback at East Fremantle in impressive fashion, but just needs to tick off with medical staff and train this week to take his spot against the Hawks.
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"It will be really exciting to get back out there. Obviously a feeling of elation as well not being out there for so long," Naitanui said.
"That's (MCG) where I did my knee last time, so I don't think there will be any fears of the ground or opposition at all, more so just a bit of excitement to be back out there playing footy.
"There's no fears or no doubt. These guys train me pretty hard behind closed doors, so playing a game is probably the least of my worries.
"Getting injured in a game, they whack me enough at training, so not fearful at all."
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Speaking in January, Naitanui accepted he would have to take a pay cut when he signed his next contract.
But a three-year extension is a show of faith in his "compromised" knees, and his overall value as a club ambassador, after managing only 15 appearances since he went down with his first ACL rupture against the Hawks in round 22, 2016.
"If you do them right, they're a club that will do you right," Naitanui said.
"I think I've still got a lot of good footy ahead of me.
"It (the contract) probably just further shows how much they do care or how much they do believe in me.
"I guess I've always felt that way, but to sign three years means I get to stay home and hopefully see the rest of my career out here."
After missing last year's premiership, Naitanui returns to a side sitting in fourth spot and positioning itself for a tilt at back-to-back flags.
He got sick of watching footy during his rehab and is looking forward to combining with midfield stars Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo at centre bounces in the 6-6-6 era.
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Naitanui is likely to play around 60-70 minutes as the Eagles aim for their first win over Hawthorn at the 'G since 2006.
He is expected to partner Tom Hickey in the ruck against Ben McEvoy and Jon Ceglar, which could squeeze tall forward Oscar Allen out of the line-up.
Fellow big Nathan Vardy is also available after serving his one-game suspension, while Willie Rioli (suspension) will return and key defender Tom Barrass, who sustained a corked calf in his WAFL comeback from foot surgery, is also in the mix.