AFL star and West Coast Eagles tall timber Nic Naitanui has talked about growing up in Perth, and how taunts from other kids as a young footy player fuelled his desire to hit the professional league.
Chatting with Marc Fennell for the very first episode of brand new pod Hey, Guess What?, Nic Naitanui said that spending his youth in Perth where he was very much a minority was definitely a struggle, as he faced regular teasing and bullying from other kids on the footy field.
“I’ve always grown up being the odd one out, being the minority in anything I do,” he said.
“It’s just the fact of growing up where I did and living where I do – no one really looks like you. So for me, it was hard, especially playing football. I used to cop it a fair bit out of the footy field from other kids. You know, things like ‘what are you doing out here?’ ‘You lost?’ ‘This game’s not for you’.
“As a kid, you had to have a fair bit of resilience to get through some of that stuff because I’m not gonna lie to you, it did hurt. But it also fuelled me on to get better and prove these guys wrong.”
He also said that he found it hard to keep at his childhood dream of playing footy – or doing P.E. every day, as he put it – because there just wasn’t anyone in the league he could identify with.
“It was hard because I didn’t really have any heroes or idols that played the sport that resembled me,” he said.
“So you know every Australian kid would have an idol who looks similar to them or plays similar to them, and I didn’t really have someone who was tall, dark, and had an afro in the AFL, as much as I wish there was.
“Now I feel like I kinda fill that void a little bit, and there are children now who are of a similar descent or come from an overseas background that can relate to my story and have someone they can idolise.”
It also turns out ‘Nic Nat’ doesn’t really work with the proper pronunciation of his name, and he both loves and hates his Aussie nickname.
“It’s funny, the name ‘Nic Nat’. So I’m from Fiji originally, and my surname is pronounced ‘Nai-ta-nui’ but in Australia – you come to Australia and everyone says ‘Nat-a-nooi’ and that’s what the commentators say in the game,” he said.
“From there on like any typical Australian you get a slang, and it just became ‘Nic Nat’. I like it but at times I hate it because sometimes you’re walking down the street and you hear people yell out ‘Nic Nat’ or little kids on the side of the fence, ‘Nic Nat! Nic Nat! Nic Nat!’
“It’s become a part of my makeup now.”
Each episode, Marc Fennell will talk with a well-known Aussie about the biggest moments in their lives, and the people they wanted to call and share it with. We’ve had a peek at the next few eps, and they feature chats with Nakkiah Lui, TikTok star Ricky Chainz, and everyone’s daggy dad, Ray Martin. You beaut.Image: Getty Images / Paul Kane