It was truly one of the weirdest days of my life.
A regulation movement, one I’ve completed more than a million times before, shouldn’t result in such a catastrophic injury.
Footballers undergo so many sharp movements, especially on game day, but after planting my left foot to change direction at training, my weight distributed through the joint at the wrong time and my ACL ruptured.
You go through a range of emotions. First there was a moment of unknown, I didn’t know what I’d done but knew something was wrong.
Then after being told I might’ve torn my ACL, I was in denial and trying to talk it down to the physios. It’s laughable looking back now but I remember telling them that it felt like a wrench in my knee but there was no way it felt like that. It felt like my bones had separated and given way.
I sat with the ice machine on my knee for six days – I didn’t really move much in the first week and a bit. There was a lot of PlayStation to keep my mind active and I thought that would be better for my brain than mindlessly watching Netflix for two weeks.
The knee is getting better each day but the last hour before I can take some painkillers would be one of the worst things I’ve experienced. The pain is uncomfortable, any slight movement hurts and it throbs and aches. Now, I’m focusing on straightening my leg, which is weird to think about given I can do it so easily on my right side.
The first major milestone is getting range of motion into the leg, being able to squat my bodyweight to 90 degrees and walk with no pain.
It’s a slow process so far but it’s the little things that get you up and about – I’m stoked that I can walk around and drive a car. Next comes walking properly without dragging my leg along the ground.
When the injury occurred, I made a conscious decision not to tell my mum until the result was confirmed because I knew she would be stressing out – as all mums do. I rang my partner, Nat, as I left the club on the way to get the scan explaining that I might be in a bit of strife.
The hard part is that the people closest to you take it just as hard, if not harder, than you. Nat actually ended up going home from work early because of it. The stress and helplessness that’s inflicted onto your loved ones that comes with not being able to do your job is real.
But I remember mum putting things into perspective for me on the phone because we, as a family, have been through a lot worse in a life sense when my dad passed away while I was overseas. If this injury had happened five years ago, I guarantee I would’ve reacted a lot differently.
There’s plenty of positives to come out of having nine to 12 months off the field and it’s the opportunity to do things I’ve never done before and develop as a person.
A former teammate of mine at the Lions, Brent Staker, who has been through a few of these, told me this will be the best year of my career in terms of developing as a person and as a player. He said I’ll get more out of this 12 months than I would’ve thought.
I have six to eight weeks of key milestones but the club are keen for me to get away and do something every four to five weeks – something to plan and look forward to. The aim is to spend time growing as a leader while ensuring my mental health is in good shape – that’s often the hardest thing to keep on top of while recovering from a long-term injury.
I’m also going to America for a couple of weeks in February with my manager for some personal development in coaching and leadership.
There’s a well-known ACL specialist I’d like to visit and using various networks the club, coaches and players have, I want to experience more of other professional environments and go to a few conferences to enhance my personal development. I want to bring some experiences back with me that can help me and the club.
The reality of the situation is that usually one player, per club, per season ruptures their ACL but it’s not as if I haven’t seen teammates or other players successfully return to the field.
I’ll enjoy the time away to focus my energy into doing other things while continuing rehab. I don’t know how I’ll go when the AFL season kicks off. I’m what they call a ‘footy-head’ and the biggest unknown for me will be how I react to my teammates running out onto the field.
I’m sure this year will have its moments of frustration but I’m excited to freshen up and return a better player and person.