Saturday night, for a number of reasons, was one of the more enjoyable games I’ve been a part of.
Firstly, to grind out a tough win in ridiculous conditions under Stewy’s guidance for the first time was as satisfying as it gets.
Secondly, it was my first official AFL game since the end of 2016 — you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
It’s been a challenging road back and I can’t explain how much I’m enjoying playing footy again. At times, I seriously doubted if I’d ever make it back.
Let’s rewind to February 19, 2017. In the first quarter of our first pre-season match for the year, I lost my footing and dislocated my hip.
Straight away, I knew things weren’t quite right but I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d done. I was in excruciating pain with my hip being out of place.
After all the tests and scans, the doctors and physios sat me down and explained what the protocol was. Initially, I was devastated then nervous and unsure but I was confident they’d have everything under control.
Barry, the team doctor, said he’d seen a few dislocated hips but more as a result of a car crash — and to get back to playing AFL again, we didn’t really have much protocol to follow like an ACL injury.
To start my rehab, I was off my feet for eight weeks. I’d chipped a significant piece of bone off the back of my hip and had two screws inserted to stick it down to my pelvis again.
That meant keeping all weight off my feet with no bending at the hip before gradually building up the pressure through there to learn to walk again.
That was the most frustrating period for me. I’d completed the entire pre-season, so much hard work, only to be sitting there while my teammates were battling it out on the field.
I then had to learn to walk again. It was a slow process that probably took around a month. Progressing from putting 20 percent body weight through the joint, to 40 and then 60 took time and patience.
The first time I walked on it unaided was a weird feeling, it felt like a phantom limb and it was awkward but I knew it was the first step to playing footy again, although it seemed very far away.
The journey was a long one and I didn’t start joining in fully with my teammates until after Christmas so it ended up being an 11-month process in rehab.
It’s fair to say 2017 wasn’t what I was expecting. My girlfriend had moved up a month before I’d done the injury and we were so excited for the year ahead that wasn’t going to be.
But my mum, dad and grandparents put everything into perspective for me — they said everything is always an opportunity to better yourself in some way, and they were right.
Now is as good a time as any to say a massive thank you to my support network. My family were all amazing. My girlfriend had just graduated as a physio and she helped with the exercises at home as well as keeping everything in order around the house.
And a lot of my teammates and coaches rolled through at some point to check in and kept me engaged and part of the Suns family.
I built strong relationships with our Doctor Barry, rehab manager Alex Rigby and rehab physiotherapist Lindsay Bull, who all did an amazing job getting me to where I am now because it wasn’t always easy-going.
I feel like I’ve tackled the injury pretty well, but it’s been mentally and emotionally challenging because, as I mentioned above, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get back to playing footy. Under the circumstances, I think I’m better for the experience.
For me, momentum was built when the rest of the boys were away from the club. I did a lot of training, my most important training, during the off-season with the rehab guys and that gave me confidence and fully eroded any doubts I had about making a return to the footy field.
It all led to Saturday night, where, after the siren while in the rain and completely exhausted, I stood on the waterlogged field knowing what I’d been through and what the club has faced recently — it was as rewarding and satisfying as it gets.
You have to celebrate the little wins along the way and it’s definitely been an exciting month.
From being able to pull on a Suns jumper again after missing all of last year to dad and I finishing our houses in Adelaide which we developed over the last year as a bit of a father-son project to keep my mind engaged away from footy.
And this the weekend I’ll join the Gold Coast Suns’ 100-game club, a very exciting milestone to tick off in my AFL journey.
In the end, it all comes back to doing what I love most and that’s running out there with my mates. I can’t wait to do it again on Saturday — this time under the dry confines of the Etihad roof for hopefully another win.