Daniel Nielson reckons his former Eastern Ranges teammate Christian Petracca has always been confident.
Petracca describes Nielson as the best defender he played junior footy with or against.
The teenagers are good mates. They are closer now after both had their AFL lives put on hold by knee reconstructions.
They get what each other is going through. The frustration of not being able to do what’s come so naturally for so long – play footy.
Petracca, taken by Melbourne at No.2 in last year’s national draft, broke down on February 16. His left knee gave way after he took a mark at training.
Nielson was North Melbourne’s second selection at the draft and No.25 overall. He managed a NAB Challenge game for the Kangaroos before his knee buckled on March 19 during a tackling drill at training.
Both players agreed that the mental toll the long-term injury has had on them is the most difficult aspect to deal with.
The support of their families, friends and footy world, however, has helped the recovery stage. Being able to trade stories of milestones and setbacks with one another has also been useful.
Petracca started running last week while Nielson is looking forward to doing the same in a month or so.
Both are on track to be ready for day one of pre-season training for 2016 with the prospect of pulling on their club’s jumper and running out round one next year the aim.
“It sort of makes things a bit more special. You have to work two years for it (your first game). You’ve worked harder than some other boys to put this jumper on,” Petracca said.