Eagles have landed: Nic Naitanui (centre) and his West Coast teammates have a training run at Greater Western Sydney’s Skoda Stadium in preparation for Saturday’s match. Photo: Wolter PeetersThe Giants have banked on the marketing appeal of Nic Naitanui to raise interest this week but the West Coast sensation is still trying to convert family members in western Sydney to the sport.
Unfortunately for the AFL and its newest team, the Penrith-born Naitanui calls Perth home and has no intention of resettling in his birthplace.
”I’ve got a lot of uncles and aunties, a few of my cousins are still out that way,” he said.
But the AFL is not the sport of choice among his family, who have their roots in Fiji where rugby is the preferred football code.
”So as well as trying to educate the suburbs and the people of the community out there, I’m still slowly trying to communicate to my family what’s going on,” said Naitanui, who is a multicultural ambassador for the league.
”They’re slowly grasping the whole concept of AFL. Now that I’m playing, they’ve started watching. Coming from a pretty dominant rugby background they tend to watch a lot of that.”
This underscores the difficulty the AFL and the Giants have in drawing new followers while also highlighting the possible impact a big-name signing will have for their cause. Naitanui said his family rarely watched AFL games unless he was playing, but he understands why.
”If I’m someone who has watched football my whole life it’s pretty hard to switch off that and start watching soccer unless you know people who are playing or have a passion for it,” Naitanui said.
”They’re starting to watch a different variety of games, but I’m not sure if it’s their first choice if none of us are playing. That’s what we’re trying to convert them to and instilling in them to watch AFL a lot more often.
Naitanui has heard from Giants players about the difficulties they face at school visits ”because all they want to talk about is either rugby or soccer”.
”I think we’re slowly cutting into that market, it’s a long process,” Naitanui said. ”It’s not only the kids you have to convert but the families as well. GWS are doing a pretty good job over there, I reckon.”
Despite the enormity of the task confronting the Giants, Naitanui believes having a club based in the region is vital. The 23-year-old said he would likely have pursued his other childhood sporting loves, rugby and basketball, had he grown up in western Sydney instead of Perth.
”Unless there was a GWS or another side out there I don’t think I would have been exposed to it as much,” said Naitanui, who grew up on the same street as Carlton’s Chris Yarran and Fremantle’s Michael Walters.
”If you grow up playing the same thing your whole life you want to do it. If I was out in western Sydney it would have been the rugby or basketball.”
The Giants, who drew a paltry crowd of 5830 to their last home game at Skoda Stadium, have gone to great lengths to use Naitanui to sell Saturday’s game. Coach Kevin Sheedy penned an open letter to the All-Australian ruckman, and the Giants took the unusual step of placing highlights of him on their website.
Naitanui is happy to play a promotional role but has ruled out leaving the club he supported as a boy to cross to the Giants.
”’Sheeds can do as much as he wants … I’m staying put.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.