Melbourne forward Tom McDonald says he nearly gave up playing again this year, but he’s now on track for the AFL finals after making it through his VFL return unscathed.
McDonald hasn’t been seen at AFL level since undergoing surgery to repair a Lisfranc joint injury in early June.
The 29-year-old premiership forward made his long-awaited return in the VFL on Saturday, booting 1.1 from 11 disposals in Casey’s 47-point qualifying final win over Sydney.
Although McDonald’s stats weren’t huge, the fact he was able to complete the match without suffering a setback is a huge step forward.
Demons coach Simon Goodwin now faces a tough decision as to whether to select McDonald for next week’s qualifying final against the Swans at the MCG.
“I got through,” a relieved McDonald told the Demons website after Saturday’s match.
“I got a bit sore towards the end. Just stiff and soreness. I’m probably not used to doing that much running and distance.
“It’s been a bit of a rushed time frame, but the aim was to get back and play finals, and I’ve been able to do it. It’s as good as I could have hoped for.
“I was nervous driving in, just nervous to play footy again and all that comes with it. But it was really fun.”
There have been numerous moments over the past three months where McDonald thought he wouldn’t be able to play again this season.
But his perseverance has paid off.
“I’ve probably had three or four times where I’ve come home and said to (my wife) Rubs, ‘It’s just not going to happen, I’m not going to get there’,” McDonald said.
“It’s just so up and down, it’s the hardest injury I’ve ever had because it wasn’t a linear progression, it was just really unpredictable.
“I definitely gave up in my mind on three or four nights, and two or three times I came back and thought I was going to make it. In the end I got there.”
McDonald booted 15 goals from nine matches before going down with injury this year, and he looms as an important part of Melbourne’s flag defence if he can regain his form quickly.
Demons midfielder Luke Dunstan enhanced his chances of earning an AFL recall with 38 disposals and two goals for Casey.