Nic Naitanui and Chris Yarran in 2008 before they were drafted to the AFL.
Nic Naitanui and Chris Yarran in 2008 before they were drafted to the AFL.

Naitanui pays tribute to jailed ex-AFL player

WEST Coast star Nic Naitanui has shown his support for friend and former AFL player Chris Yarran, who has been sentenced to five years' prison.

Yarran was jailed on Thursday for a meth-fuelled crime spree last November across Perth, which included assaulting a policeman and trying to steal his gun.

He pleaded guilty to offences including dangerous driving, aggravated robbery and criminal damage.

Yarran played 119 games for Carlton before he was traded to Richmond ahead of the 2016 season. He was delisted by the Tigers without playing a game for them.

Yarran's footy dream was enhanced by his close friendship with Naitanui and Fremantle forward Michael Walters, who all lived on the same street as children in outer eastern Perth suburb Midvale.

Yarran and Naitanui grew up six houses apart, developing a deep friendship as kids that still remains strong.

Naitanui always claimed Yarran was the most talented of the trio growing up.

"Always our brother," Naitanui wrote on Twitter.

The West Coast ruckman also uploaded a 2008 picture of him, Yarran and Walters with their mothers before they were all drafted to AFL clubs.

Before Yarran and Naitanui met for a game in 2011, the then-Blue revealed the duo continue to "speak all the time, like every week".

"We are close and always will be because we grew up together and did things as kids," Yarran told the Herald Sun.

Chris Yarran and Nic Naitanui tangle in the Eagles-Blues final in 2011.
Chris Yarran and Nic Naitanui tangle in the Eagles-Blues final in 2011.

On the day he was drafted in 2008, Yarran visited his father in prison before moving to Melbourne and linking up with the Blues to begin a new life.

Speaking to the North Coast Times, Sean Gorman - an academic and chronicler of Australian rules football's indigenous heritage - said Yarran's journey wasn't unique.

"There's been a long history of West Australians and Aboriginal players going to Carlton and playing," Gorman said.

"The expectation was there - he was a blue-chip player.

"He grew up on Bushby St (in Midvale), where (Nic) Naitanui, Sonny (Michael) Walters and Chris grew up.

"And Chris had the most potential - but he was the quietest.

"His father was in jail, jailed for a long period of time."

Chris Yarran in 2008, then playing with Swan Districts.
Chris Yarran in 2008, then playing with Swan Districts.

Yarran, 28, has been in prison since his dramatic arrest for the November crime spree, which started on the city's suburban fringe and ended with him being tasered in the CBD.

He headbutted and punched the policeman who tackled him, then tried to remove the officer's Taser and gun, partly unclipping it from its holster. It took several officers and Taser attempts to subdue him.

On Thursday, when Yarran was jailed for five years, the West Australian District Court heard his life had started to unravel when he began taking meth in 2014 while playing for Carlton.

It "quickly took over" after one of his closest mentors left the club and moved from Melbourne to Adelaide, leaving him feeling alone, his lawyer Terry Dobson said.

Yarran underwent rehabilitation in Sydney in 2015 but immediately starting using again.

In 2016, he retired from professional AFL and returned to Perth. His use spiralled out of control in 2017 when his niece died, then his cousin Shane Yarran - also a former AFL player with meth use problems - took his own life.

"From that point on, his use of meth skyrocketed and he saw no point in life," Mr Dobson said.

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