West Coast Eagles’ Elliot Yeo has given insight into what it’s like to play alongside the ‘freakish’ Nic Naitanui, who announced his retirement from the club on Monday.

Naitanui, 33, was contracted for 2024, but a season-ending achilles tendon injury that required surgery convinced him the time was right to hang up the boots.

It ends his glittering career at 213 AFL games, with the three-time All-Australian to go down as one of West Coast’s all-time greats.

On Tuesday morning, Yeo described Naitanui as “a human highlight reel.”

“The stuff that Nic could do was absolutely freakish,” he told Clairsy & Lisa.

“It’s not often you could go into a centre bounce and go ‘Nic, I want it here, put it here… and he would do it’.”

On Monday afternoon, Naitanui told a packed presser that his achilles wasn’t quite right and that his recovery was going to be a long journey.

“I think being realistic, to come back and play a couple of games to get a send-off – as much as some people say I might deserve it, I thought it might be a little bit selfish.

“I feel like I have exhausted every avenue to work my way through my injury, but my body is sending a strong message that it is time.

“Being a power athlete who has relied on my ability to jump throughout my career, this injury was probably going to take that away from me.”

Naitanui will go down as one of the best and most unique ruckmen, with his deft tapping abilities, amazing athleticism, and bulldozing work at ground level setting him apart.

The 202cm powerhouse played in West Coast’s 2015 grand final loss to Hawthorn.

That disappointment came less than two months after his mother died.

Naitanui missed out on the club’s 2018 grand final win over Collingwood after undergoing a second knee reconstruction earlier that season.

“It probably sits in the same boat as 2015. That was just as rough for me,” Naitanui said of missing out on the 2018 flag glory.

“That (2015) was the toughest year of my life. Then to lose the grand final exacerbated that feeling even more.

“For me, 2018 was tough, but there was a lot of elation because I got to see a lot of my mates partake in success.

“I don’t regret not ever winning a premiership. Obviously that’s what you play for and that’s what you want.

“But if people ask me if I have any regrets about not playing on next year or not winning a premiership – I’ve got a steady roof over my head, and that’s all I could ever ask for.”

Naitanui becomes the third Eagles legend to retire over the past fortnight, following hot on the heels of Shannon Hurn and Luke Shuey, something that Yeo also contemplated on Tuesday.

“It’s sad, it is sad,” Yeo deadpanned after realising it would never be he, Shuey and Naitanui across the midfield ever again.

Naitanui was selected with pick No.2 in the 2008 national draft and excited fans from the outset.

In just his second AFL game, he kicked three final-quarter goals to lead his team to a 20-point win over Hawthorn.

Naitanui got into trouble for performing a stunning slam dunk – in which he jumped over a court announcer – at half-time of a Perth Wildcats game in 2012.

West Coast deemed the risk of injury was too high for Naitanui to be performing such stunts.

Naitanui could afford to make light of the situation during his retirement press conference.

“I don’t know why I got in trouble for that – these guys paid me to jump for a living, so I jumped,” he said with a laugh.


  • Drafted: Pick No.2, 2008
  • Games: 213
  • Goals: 112
  • Debut: Round 12, 2009 v Richmond
  • Emerging Talent: 2010
  • All-Australian: 2012, 2020, 2021
  • West Coast Eagles life member: 2018
  • Club Champion: 2020, 2021
  • Player of the Finals: 2020

with AAP