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Naitanui returning via Royals

Gary Stocks  March 8, 2018 10:00 AM

Nic Naitanui will play managed minutes at East Fremantle Oval on Saturday

Nic Naitanui will play managed minutes at East Fremantle Oval on Saturday

The long-awaited and highly anticipated return of champion ruckman Nic Naitanui is imminent.

The star big man, who has not played since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the round 22 game against Hawthorn in 2016, has been carefully managed through his rehabilitation but is on the brink of a return.

He is likely to play managed minutes for WAFL partner club East Perth on Saturday.

After joining the main group for training in the last fortnight, the medical team has given the athletic Naitanui the green light to resume.

At 201cm and around 100kg, it has taken virtually 18 months and a meticulous program managed by the club’s sports science and strength and conditioning teams to get Naitanui to this point.

Playing for the Royals against East Fremantle at East Fremantle Oval will be the first major milestone in his planned return to senior football early in the 2018 campaign.

Precisely when he wears the royal blue and gold for the first time will be determined by how he pulls up and recovers from his first – and subsequent – hit outs.

The match committee has opted to manage his return at East Perth, rather than bringing him back for the club’s JLT Community Series match against Fremantle at HBF Arena on Sunday.