Looking back on my career to date, I’ve been incredibly unlucky with injuries.
There are players out there who are unlucky enough to do knees or a specific injury over and over again, but for me it has been a different part of my body each time.
The tough thing about last year was the sort of injury I had was one I didn’t know about. I had no idea when I was going to come good, which was hard to work around.
It’s not like I got injured and knew I’d recover within three weeks. That was the hardest part.
I would start running again and then get sore and the amount of times it happened just added to the frustration.
It got to a point where I needed to take action, and having the surgery in the middle of the year was the best thing for me. Fixing the issue has been a big relief for me.
It was about Round 12 when we made the decision to have surgery, but it was a long time before we got to that point.
Initially, it wasn’t on the cards, but it got to the stage where I was gradually getting worse and worse. I was keen on just about any avenue to get better.
The injury was referred to as ‘pubic instability,’ and in the old days, it was osteitis pubis. It originally started underneath my adductors, and that dragged on for a year to 18 months, but then in the last six months the pain was excruciating on top of my pubic bone and around my abdominals.
When it got to that point, it became debilitating. I couldn’t run at all, and there were times where I couldn’t walk or get out of bed, which makes things pretty hard. There were moments when I couldn’t even get out of the car! I literally had to pick my legs up to get out.
The injury originated in 2017, and many things could have contributed to it. I got a corky on my hip pointer early in the season and there was probably two to three weeks where I carried that, and was running differently which might have caused it, because it came about after that.
Many players go through this, but with varying seriousness. Plenty of my teammates have had it in different ways. Once I got through 2017, I didn’t think it could get much worse, but there were stages where I worried whether I was going to walk again properly.
Because we were struggling as a team and had a tough year in 2018, it was frustrating not being able to help the team. With the expectation coming from 2017 and being so close to winning it all, it made it harder not being out there while we struggled and ultimately missed the finals.
It’ll come as no surprise that I struggle to watch games on the sidelines. I can’t watch much at all, and at times last year I stayed home and watched the game on TV because I just couldn’t handle it.
Having to sit out again really got to me.
Injuries change your mindset towards recovery. Many players come in as 17 or 18-year-olds and generally don’t have much of an idea because they haven’t been hurt properly before.
The way you treat your body is very important, particularly these days as the game gets physically more demanding with the running side of things.
It keeps increasing and the game is getting faster and faster, so recovery has become a massive part of training for me.
In recent years, the club invested in NormaTec boots mainly after games to assist with recovery. They help get your blood flowing again, which helps your recovery. You can put them on just after the game, or even the next day depending on the situation.
It’s important to use them after the beach or after an ice bath. You feel better because they tighten up on your legs, which constricts your muscles, and then there’s a relief when they expand.
As AFL players, we’re keen to explore any kind of mechanism to find that extra edge.
I haven’t set any specific goals for 2019. Truth be told, I’m just happy to be fit again and in contention after not playing since the 2017 Grand Final.
As cliché as it sounds, I just want to keep focusing on the week ahead because the frustrating thing for me over the years has been that when I play, I generally perform pretty well, but then I endure a setback.
To play just 61 games in five years is incredibly disappointing. People don’t understand, and supporters don’t understand how frustrating it can be to hear people saying, ‘He’s injured again!’
It is hard to avoid that stuff, but you can’t sit around and sook about it. They are the cards I’ve been dealt. I can understand why they’re frustrated, but I am arguably more frustrated than they are.
That is just the world we live in, and I hope I can put the past behind me in 2019.