This story was originally published on January 15, 2018.
I had a positive pre-season in 2017, I did a lot of work to get ready before the JLT Series. I did every session and was feeling fit. The first trial game came around, but things didn’t pan out the way I wanted them to.
We played Richmond in our first hit-out, and in the opening 10 minutes of the contest I injured my knee. Initially, I wasn’t sure of the extent and I played on and strapped the knee up.
The next day I slipped over in the recovery and that’s when I ruptured my ACL.
I was shattered. There was an immediate sense of sadness because I had put in the hard work, and felt I would be rewarded with a positive year and some more senior footy. Being my second ACL added another sense of devastation.
It took me a while to get over, but family and friends provided some terrific support.
It was a daunting prospect, because I had managed just 14 senior games in six seasons, and I was out of contract at season’s end. My mind started running through different scenarios, and I started to wonder what life would be like on the outside.
A friend of mine told me to stay positive, to control the things that I can control, and to live in the present. You can’t worry about what may happen in the future.
It’s all about controlling each moment as it comes and putting your best foot forward. It sounds simple, but when you break it down like that, it definitely helps. Small milestones would come along, like running on the grass or doing agility work. Ticking off goals helped my mental state.
At the start of the 2017 season, and not long after the injury, Ryan O’Keeffe, who is the Crows’ SANFL coach, came up to me and asked if I’d like to get involved.
The opportunity to run the communications between the playing group and the coaches was something I didn’t want to pass up. I felt comfortable doing it, and it was great for my development as a player, because I could see both sides of the spectrum.
It’s a different way to learn our game style and structures. When you’re in rehab for a long-term injury, you can feel distant and not part of the club. But this role gave me purpose, and I appreciated the fact that the boys were respectful and responded to what I had to say.
Surprisingly, the recovery period was quite quick. The Crows have a tremendous staff, I worked really closely with Duncan Kellaway, who rehabbed Taylor Walker and a number of others. I was in good hands, and his support assisted me to get back on my feet quickly.
When Brodie Smith went down with his ACL in the first final, I tried to be there to show support and to let him know that he’ll be able to recover. Any tips I had, I passed onto Brodie and tried to not just be there as a player, but as a mate.
My knee feels strong, I haven’t had any problems with it, and I was actually back training with the boys in the lead-up to the Grand Final. To be back running and full training in late September was a bonus.
The result on Grand Final day was not what we wanted, but to be there and watch the year unfold was amazing. Being able to train with the group in the finals and be a part of it was special for me. The build-up to the Grand Final was like nothing I’ve been around.
The club have shown tremendous faith in me to pick me up in the rookie draft after being delisted. They wanted to keep me on the list for another year, and that has given me some security.
I’m loving the pre-season right now. I’m enjoying being able to do the simplest of drills that I hadn’t been able to perform for a while. Just being around the group and working towards something is a special thing to be a part of when it’s previously taken away from you. There’s no thoughts about the JLT Series, or Round 1, it’s just about completing sessions. That’s my focus.
Structurally, the knee is sound and I’m attacking training with no worries or fear. A good friend of mine said, ‘If you’re going to do it again, then you’ll do it again. Train like you don’t have any worries.’
2018 is almost like a last chance for me, but I can’t focus on the year as a whole yet because I haven’t played a game.
We’re ready to attack 2018 as a group. It’s a tight-knit group, and last year’s disappointment has been turned into immense focus. We know the path we’re on, and we’ll stop at nothing to make it as far as we can.