As if Ben McEvoy’s status wasn’t already guaranteed at Hawthorn, coach Sam Mitchell will ensure the two-time AFL premiership ruckman’s legend lives on.
There were fears McEvoy’s career would be brought to a premature end when he suffered a “traumatic” neck injury in a training mishap in March.
Scans revealed a small fracture but three months of dedicated rehabilitation resulted in the Hawks skipper making an emotional comeback in Sunday’s 32-point win over Adelaide.
McEvoy had seven disposals and 19 hit-outs in a solid return as his side snapped a five-match losing streak.
“Statistically in the first half and a bit he was quite strong, particularly around the ruck, and he gives us a really good contest,” Mitchell said.
“The energy in the whole stadium every time he goes near it, everyone starts to get up and about.
“He really lacks an eye for drama though because he really needed to kick that goal in the last quarter, but we had a chuckle about it when he came to the bench.”
Hawthorn players watched a ‘highlights’ tape of McEvoy’s rehabilitation process during the week, revisiting tough days when the veteran was trying to regain strength.
At one point, the 200cm man mountain – dubbed ‘Big Boy’ for most of his career – was reduced to using mere 1kg weights to rebuild his triceps.
“To come from there to where he is playing in an AFL game, to our fans it’s quite impressive, but to the players who have seen him soldier away with a 1kg weight up to his normal bench-pressing and all that sort of thing now – it’s an inspirational story that certainly I’ll lean on for many, many years,” Mitchell said.
“Our players who have to come back from injury are always going to feel sorry for themselves for a moment.
“But when you look at a leader of our football club who’s able to produce that, it puts it into perspective.”
Mitchell is confident McEvoy, who turns 33 on Monday, won’t need to be managed through the latter stages of this season.
“We’ll put him out there and just let him play,” Mitchell said.
“He’ll get fitter and fitter as the season goes.”