The Eagles ruckman is recovering from rupturing his ACL in West Coast’s round 22 match against Hawthorn. He underwent reconstruction surgery last August.
In an interview with Seven News Perth, Naitanui said he hopes to return this year but he won’t be rushing back.
“It could be round one 2018 at the new stadium, so that’s something good to look forward to but at the same time it’s so far away,” he said.
“I think you look at the bigger picture. If I was in my last year and I really needed to have a crack, you know, I’d push really really hard.
“I still will, I still have a goal to play this year, but for me you have to be smart about it, I look long term in my future I don’t want to be sore again or play underdone.
“It will depend how the boys are going as well. If we’re playing finals and we’re going really well, I’ll definitely want to be a part of.”
The Eagles had been enduring somewhat of an injury crisis, especially in the ruck. Alongside Naitanui, Jonathan Giles is recovering from a hamstring injury and Scott Lycett underwent surgery on his PCL.
Even though the medical room has been quite full, Naitanui said recovering from a long-term injury is a lonely process.
“You can feel like a bit of a leper, at times, you’re isolated from the main group,” he said.
“There’s 45 blokes training away and your time’s normally separate to them.
“I knew the journey would be hard… especially the early stages. But never did I think it’d be as tough as what it has been so far.
“I think my mind probably plays tricks on me at times – telling me I can’t do it.
“Learning to walk was something I never thought I’d have to do, just learning to put one foot in front of the other.”