Our new podcast Hey, Guess What? is all about connections, and the moments in your life when you share something deeply personal with your loved ones, forge new relationships and carve out new meaning. West Coast Eagles’ star player Nic Naitanui has a lot to be proud of in his life, and he sat down with host Marc Fennell to talk about his path to the big time.

Hey, Guess What? is a new podcast from Telstra that looks to teach us all a little something about who we’re connected to, how we grow and what it all means. Subscribe to Hey, Guess What? on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you find great podcasts.

On his family…

Nic actually has a twin brother named Mark, and when he made it to the big time, that was his first phone call.

When you hear him speak, you also realise he has a close relationship with his mother following the death of his father.

“There was times, you know, we didn’t have much growing up. So I’ve been convinced my mum had to buy new 200 dollar footy boots or pay the footy fees was hard. So I think, you know, when I was told that I was going to play my first game, it was almost a sigh of relief, but also a sense of, I guess, proving that all the hard things that we went through was all worth it.”

“Growing up in my teenage years as well as not having my father and we didn’t take a bit of responsibility and with myself and my twin brother in particular had to grow up really quick. And we learnt some life skills at a very young age so we could cook, we could clean and we could do it all, you know, while I was still in primary school.”

“And you build that independence and I guess self-sufficiency along the way as well.”

On how he got into football…

Before there was the AFL, Nic played basketball. His build and the height of his jump made him great for the game.

“I remember walking home from primary school and I always carried a basketball with me and I saw these kids. My next door neighbour went on to play for Carlton and then one went on to play for the Fremantle Dockers – and they were walking and kicking this funny shape. The Kangaroo leather thing at the front of the house.

“And I’m thinking, ‘why are they bouncing this weird ball like that?’ So, I go over there and ask. And they showed me how to do it and how to kick it. I still can’t kick it. But they taught me that the basic skills and yeah, from then on, you know, I went down and joined the local footy club and I just fell in love with the game.”

Nic Naitanui of the Eagles looks to pass the ball during the round nine AFL match between West Coast Eagles and the Geelong Cats at Optus Stadium on August 01, 2020 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 01: Nic Naitanui of the Eagles looks to pass the ball during the round nine AFL match between West Coast Eagles and the Geelong Cats at Optus Stadium on August 01, 2020 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos)

On dealing with racism…

“There’s always that person that doesn’t like you because of your skin tone. So, yeah, I’d like to be honest, like if I tweet something, there’s always one person that says something racial or, you know, back to your country, things like that.”

“I find it hard as well at times now to hold my tongue and not respond. There’s been so many times that I just want to message them back. But you can’t just give them a voice. You give them a platform which they don’t deserve. So yeah, fingers crossed [racism] does [go away]. You know – it is eradicated at some stage. But just to be real with you. Like, I don’t think it ever will.”

You can hear Nic talk about these issues and more – including his incredible journey through injury and who inspires him – in our new podcast, Hey, Guess What?, hosted by Marc Fennell. Subscribe to Hey, Guess What? on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, or wherever you find great podcasts.