Set to play his first AFL match in more than 12 months against Fremantle this weekend, Port Adelaide’s Hamish Hartlett details his road to recovery to AFLPlayers.com.au after rupturing his ACL in April last year.
When I injured my knee last year, the thought it was going to be a serious injury immediately crept into my mind.
The pain was excruciating and I felt that ‘pop’ everyone speaks of when they injure their anterior-crucial ligament (ACL). I had an idea as I walked into the change rooms that it was an ACL injury.
As I went through the tests with the club doctor and physiotherapists they had a grim look on their faces. The terminology they used was it felt ‘sloppy’.
The scans confirmed the worst and from that moment I knew my rehab journey was going to be significant.
For the first 48 hours after I was in disbelief. You often see these injuries happen to other people in their careers but you never think it’s going to be you.
I’ve spent a fair bit of my time throughout my career in rehab for various reasons and so a feeling of ‘here we go again’ crept into my mind.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t control what’s happened. Attacking my rehab in the most diligent and professional way possible was always going to be the key to my comeback.
The isolation you often feel when in the rehab group and away from the main sessions can often be challenging, but I was fortunate as a senior player that I’ve developed strong relationships with my teammates over my career so there was never a moment where I felt alone.
As a senior player I felt an obligation to approach my rehab the right way and to set an example for the younger players who were coming through.
Around six weeks after I did my knee one of our first-year players, Sam Hayes, also ruptured his ACL at training. As heartbreaking as it was to see a young player go down with a long-term injury, that time in rehab together provided us the opportunity to support each other through the process and form a strong relationship.
Sam’s playing his first game in the SANFL this weekend as I prepare to make my senior return, so it’s a big weekend for the both of us on our respective journeys.
During those times where rehab can be challenging and you face setbacks, it’s really important to turn to your teammates, family and friends for support.
A football club is one of the best places to be in those times because your mates are there to support you and often they understand what you’re going through. Dougal Howard and Robbie Gray, who have experienced the same injury, were always checking up on me and acting as a sounding board for advice.
I’ve been fortunate that being a South Australian my family and friends have been by my side throughout the whole process and have been my biggest supporters. I’ve had no shortage of love and care around me, which makes the process more manageable.
As challenging as it is to find out you’ve suffered a serious injury and will be facing a long stint on the sidelines, it also provides an opportunity to develop in other aspects of your life.
For me, that was about starting a Health/Science degree with the University of South Australia online and continuing to develop my coaching with the South Australian under-16s side.
I also tried my hand at guitar but I can’t imagine a solo career will be taking off anytime soon!
By taking my mind off football and trying to grow myself in other areas, I’ve discovered passions and hobbies that could influence my future in one way, shape or form.
I came close to playing as the group travelled to China, myself included, for the game against St Kilda in Shanghai but unfortunately ‘Kenny’ (Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley) ruled me out.
Despite the fact I was knocking down the door to try and earn myself a guernsey, the only way I was going to be getting a game was if a few of the boys were injured or crook!
While rehab involves many challenging moments, monotonous tasks and difficult sessions, it also involves really significant milestones that make the hard work worthwhile – running for the first time, returning to the main training session and of course, playing your first game.
Those are the moments you work hard for and if you’re involved in a club with a great atmosphere like I am fortunate enough to be with Port Adelaide, then you know that when you run down the race for the first time again, you’re going to have the support of the entire club behind you.