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Q&A — Isabel Huntington

Former No. 1 draft pick Isabel Huntington had a challenging start to her career at the elite level, injuring her ACL for a second time in her second game for the Western Bulldogs. The 19-year-old forward spoke with about when she expects to take to the field again and the experience of going through rehab with her cousin, AFL player Will Setterfield.

Taking it back to the start of the season, you played a couple of games before doing your knee again. Did you know straight away that it was something serious?

It’s a pretty familiar pain when you do your knee so I knew straight away that it was going to be something serious so I was just holding onto any sort of hope that it might’ve been a medial or something less significant than the ACL but I was pretty certain at that stage. Obviously it is really difficult and I was probably in shock a little bit at that stage and didn’t really process it at the start. Coming back from Brisbane we had a flight delay and was on the tarmac for four hours so it was a pretty crazy night that one. I think it takes time to adjust to that sort of injury and to also adjust yourself mentally that you’ll be going through another 12 months of rehab and might not play again until next season or the season after so it is a mental battle but I think having the experience of doing the first one, and if there is any positive to take from that, I know the steps you go through in terms of rehab, what I’m doing right and wrong, where I should be and how to get back to playing my best footy.

Tyson Goldsack’s ACL injury has been well-documented, do you take any inspiration from his phenomenal recovery?

Yeah, I think his story is pretty incredible. Six months for an AFL player is unheard of. Not only that, but he did so well in the finals series so he has actually returned to performance as well. For me, I am just aiming to get back for Round 1 next season and it would be incredible if I could. I’m pushing myself as hard as I can to make that happen but I also have an understanding having been through rehab before that things don’t always go to plan and everyone’s rehab is completely different. You can have setbacks that are unforeseen and you have to get through those. I understand if I don’t make it back that I will keep pushing to get back to the next game or the one after that but it’s definitely an inspiration. You see stories like that, Alex Johnson and Dan Menzel who have done a number of ACL’s and keep pushing to get back so as someone who has done it twice now you take inspiration from them and all the other AFLW players who people may not have known that have done ACL’s, people like Erin Phillips and Aasta O’Connor, you definitely take inspiration from people like that.

You’ve been doing your rehab with Carlton player Will Setterfield, did you find comfort and support knowing there was someone there who was going through the same process as you when rehab is often described as isolating?

Yeah, I think it was pretty insane circumstances that we had done our knees a week apart and were getting operated on a week apart in almost the same hospital bed with the same surgeon. After our surgeries together he was staying at my place and we were just hanging out. For me, having done the knee before I was able to answer any questions he had in terms of surgery, pain and the rehab process and then Will was also able to help me in terms of providing inspiration as someone who can get back on the footy field. Will has had a lot of long-term injuries before so he isn’t new to this and he’s very strong. Throughout the whole process it’s been really helpful having him. He’s obviously up in Sydney though so we don’t get to see each other too much but to just check up and know that someone is going through that with you is nice.

Q&A — Katie Brennan

You said you were hoping to get up for Round 1, if that doesn’t happen, are you expecting to play during the season?

At this stage my rehab is all on track for that. I know that can change a lot between now and then but I am definitely keen to get back as soon as possible, whether it is Round 1 or 2, I am really just aiming to get back with the team. It brings you so much joy and we are coming off a great season so hopefully we can continue some of that form so I am really excited to get back out on the field and play with some of my teammates.

Thanks for chatting with me Izzy and good luck with everything.

No worries, thanks Kavisha.