On the back of a frustrating 2017 season, David Armitage sat down with AFLPlayers.com.au to discuss his recovery and looks ahead to 2018.
Did I see recently that you were over in the NT with Ben Long?
I was. I went up with Ben Long and also Raph Clarke who I used to play and live with. I’ve got a good relationship with the Clarke boys and now Ben Long.
Apart from the fact that it’s a nice part of the world, what was the reasoning behind heading up there for a short trip?
I grew up in Mackay, so it’s pretty similar to Darwin in that there’s lots of fishing, crabbing, and living off the land and eating what you catch. I’ve always wanted to get over to Darwin and the Tiwi Islands and do that ever since I started playing footy. It’s taken me 10 years but I finally got there. I dare say I’ll be doing it next year as well.
And you were able to get around some of the locals on social media. Were they relatives of the Clarke boys?
They were relations of the Longs actually. It was quite cool, actually, we sung a few songs around the camp fire and they were great people to be around.
With your recovery at the moment, are you back to being fully fit? Or do you still have a way to go?
Nah, I’ve still got a little bit of recovery to go. I’m just heading down now to do some off-legs work and some weights. I won’t start running for another couple of weeks still so it’ll take a bit of time before I’m 100 percent but that’s alright. I’ll be fully ready to go once the pre-season begins.
With the constant recovery and the disruptions, how frustrating has the last 12-24 months been?
It’s been a little bit frustrating, but even last year when I had my back issues going on I still managed to play every game, but I just didn’t play at 100 percent. This year has been more frustrating, I had a full pre-season, and then Round 1 rolls around and I had a little incident with my groin and it ends up last the whole year when I thought it’d just last a couple of weeks. Every 4-6 weeks I had little goals to get back and help the team but then that didn’t work out. It didn’t eventuate and with four weeks to go I made the decision to pull the pin on the season.
With the groin issue you had this year, that wasn’t at all linked to what you suffered over the previous couple with the back, was it?
As far as I know it wasn’t back-related, it was more of a workload issue, which traditional osteitis pubis is. I’m confident that I’ll be fully fit by the time the next season rolls around.
What’s the plan around the recovery? You’re doing it as we speak and it’s the beginning of October, but what does the next few weeks look like for you once you’re back from Asia?
It’ll still be a lot of off-leg work — bikes, swimming, boxing, weights and a lot of injury-prevent weights on my legs. I haven’t had a run for 8-10 weeks so I need to take a bit of time to get my leg strength up so that I’m conditioned to start running. I can officially commence running on the 16th of October, and when I do start that I’ll be able to run about two times a week, then it’ll become three and then eventually the intensity and the distance will increase. It’ll take a while for me to launch into full-on drills with the group. I’ll be conservative to start training.
With your attempts to come back, you had the intention of being fit 4-6 weeks after you sustained the injury… so what happened to continually push it back? Did you push it too hard?
It’s a tricky one, because I had occasions where I had two, three and four weeks completely off legs where I was just on the bike and doing some weights. Then, I’d have an MRI scan and there was a lot of bone edema which meant that the bone was stressed which was weird because I hadn’t actually done anything. With bone stuff, it can hang around for a while so that’s why we were a little bit more conservative and waited four weeks before running. It just started flaring up again every time I stepped up my intensity.
How difficult is it watching on?
I still try and have an impact from Monday to Friday with the likes of Ben Long and Jade Gresham. So I was still involved in some capacity. But it was hard not being out there and not being able to see things on the track. It’s a little bit frustrating, but every 4-6 weeks I thought I might be coming back so you’re still clinging onto some hope. There were a few setbacks — I had the two surgeries and I had some cortisone injections — but I thought I might get back which spurred me on. Thinking we could make finals motivated me, but that’s alright. Next year we’ll be there.
From the perspective of a player, this is the time of year where silly rumours start and I imagine it can be a little uneasy for you guys… speaking generally, do players get nervous during this period?
It’s hard for me to say, because I certainly don’t. Maybe some would, but clubs are pretty good these days with their communication with players and at the end of the day, both parties have to agree. There’s a lot of speculation, and I’ve heard that I’m going to be traded for the last four years, which is quite funny, but then your manager speaks to the club and nips it in the bud. There was something on SEN this week where they were discussing the possibility of me going somewhere, but when you speak to the people at the actual club, you know where you stand.
So when that stuff does get brought up, is it your instinct to just ask your manager straight away? Or are you so experienced now that you know it’s just a bit of rubbish speculation?
Yeah, pretty much. As a younger player you’d be a bit more concerned and you’d probably get on the phone and ask questions, but personally, I know where I sit. I like to think that I’m still quite important to our team’s outfit. I just don’t engage with the speculation and leave it alone… hopefully I don’t get a call when I’m overseas, though!
I imagine the recent success of the Bulldogs and Richmond provides the club with a bit of hope that if you can get into the finals that you’re every chance because it’s so even at the minute…
Yeah, that’s right. This season showed how even things are because with only a few weeks to go in the season, there was still 12 or 13 teams that were mathematically a chance to make it. It was the most even year I’ve ever seen and I dare say it’ll be the same in 2018. For us, it’s all about practicing for those big moments in tight games and being on the winning side of the ledger. Now that they’ve got this bye that freshens everyone up it kind of means you can make it from anywhere. Although, history says that the top four generally goes on to win it.
It’ll be weird to come back to pre-season without Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt for the first time in your career…
Yeah, I know! I’ve had nearly a decade with those guys and I’ve looked up to them for that amount of time and I still do. It is going to be weird, I hadn’t actually thought about it until you just brought it up. I’m the second oldest at the club now behind Sammy Gilbert which is concerning. But we’ve got some really good up-and-coming leaders and another year into those guys will be good for them.
Is Sam Gilbert now the only player who is over 30 at the club? Surely he’ll get some ribbing about that…
He is! Then I think it’s myself and Jarryn who are 29. He’ll definitely cop it from the group.
Being just 29, you’ve still got some time left — I’m not trying to put you into an early retirement — but do you have anything in the fire for life after football?
I’m doing a level two coaching course this year, and I’ve also been catching up with some key stakeholders within the St Kilda Football Club and networking and honing in on their skills. I’d like to think I still have three or four years left in the game, though. You need to start planting the seed a few years out from when you retire so that you don’t get a rude awakening when you stop getting paid. It still doesn’t mean that I know what I’m going to do, but at least I’m preparing.
I wanted to ask you about the developing players at the club… who is going to do what Seb Ross has done over the last two years and take the next step?
There’s probably three that played pivotal roles this year. Koby Stevens, Jack Steele — he’s going to be a star I think, but he probably needs belief that he will be a star, I don’t think he knows it yet. The other one is Luke Dunstan who finished the year really strong and he’s a contested bull who adds to our midfield depth. The teams in the top four have great midfield depth and we want to get to that as well.
Brilliant, mate. Thanks for taking the time to have a chat.
No worries at all!