NIC NAITANUI says he's determined to silence his critics, with the West Coast ruckman declaring he's ready to "prove a point" next season.
The Eagles big man is in the midst of his first full pre-season for three years and Naitanui said he's primed to make a bigger impact in 2015.
"Yeah, I am. I can't wait. We’ve done a fair bit of running this summer and I've never looked forward to round one more than this year," he said.
"Obviously last year (I was) a bit hampered and (wasn’t) able to perform as well as I wanted to. This year I've got a bit of a point to prove."
West Coast duo back on track
Naitanui has battled groin issues that surfaced after his All Australian campaign in 2012 and he's failed to perform to his own expectations on a consistent basis since.
But he's feeling fit in January for the first time in years and is reaping the benefits of the Eagles' gruelling pre-season in the Perth heat.
"It's unusual, I think in previous years I've only clocked up maybe 20 or 30 hours of actual track time in the pre-season," Naitanui said.
"So I've surpassed that by a couple of hundred hours so far. It's a different feeling – it's a great feeling – and I'm looking forward to the year ahead.
"Normally I've come back for one NAB Cup game and gone straight into playing footy, which probably has hurt me a bit.
"But this year, coming in having run since the AFL Grand Final last year, and having that consistency is probably going to put me in good stead come round one."
Darling ready to ramp it up
Naitanui showed glimpses of his best in 20 games last season, but the former No.2 NAB AFL Draft pick struggled to have a consistent impact away from ruck contests.
He won almost 22 hit-outs per game but he's hoping to improve on the 12 disposals and 1.5 marks he averaged as the Eagles missed the finals for the second-straight season.
Retired West Coast champion Dean Cox remains at the club as ruck coach and Naitanui said he will try to emulate the six-time All Australian, whose elite endurance and skills allowed him to play like a midfielder.
"Yeah, a bit of that. I'll still play to my strengths and what I bring to the team," Naitanui said at Etihad Stadium after the AFL announced its Multicultural Program will expand in 2015.
"Evolving to what Dean has done and what he's shown over his career is something that I look to emulate and try and mimic out on the field.
"Having 'Coxy' there at training, doing my vision – stuff that he's done in the past – but having that more week-in, week-out will obviously help that as well.
"It's awesome having him there as a coach (and) mentor. Myself, Scotty Lycett and Cal Sinclair are in a pretty privileged position."
AFL Multicultural Ambassadors Bachar Houli, Stephen Coniglio, Paul Puopolo, Alipate Carlile, David Zaharakis, Nic Naitanui, James Aish, Patrick Karnezis and Jobe Watson. Picture: AFL Media
Sinclair (finger) returned to full training recently but a host of key Eagles remain on lighter programs.
Jack Darling (foot) has been cleared to ramp up his pre-season program, but Scott Selwood (ankle), Xavier Ellis (AC joint) and Jeremy McGovern (hip) remain on modified duties.
West Coast finished ninth in 2014 and Naitanui said it was crucial the Eagles got their best players on the track if the club was to achieve the success he's craving.
"The thing that hurts the most is that ultimate success and seeing former teammates playing in some of the flags in recent years," Naitanui said.
"Going to the AFL Grand Final last year, seeing those guys and how happy they were, that's probably my primary thing that I want to do - have that team success.
"Last year we did finish off with some pretty good wins, I think we let ourselves during the middle of the year and the start of the year for a little period as well.
"We've got a lot of young talent, so we've drafted pretty well as well. I think it's the most Victorians we've drafted as well.
"We're pretty confident in our young guys and in our crew that we've already got, so it's just about getting everyone on the track."