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Knee reco has silver lining for Garland

Matt Burgan  November 2, 2017 8:30 AM

IN AUGUST this year, Colin Garland knew he was done.

The Melbourne defender was five months into his rehabilitation from a knee reconstruction, which hadn't been as simple as get the joint fixed and move on. 

His quad graft had played up and meant things had progressed slower than he thought they would, and he knew he faced an uphill battle to get back to AFL standard. 

He had also found himself more motivated by helping other players than his own recovery, and was thriving in his new role working with the Demons' women's program.   

"My knee was troubling me a bit and I was a little bit burnt out by all of that," Garland told AFL.com.au this week.

"I was looking forward to Mondays and Thursdays, doing the coaching with the girls, more than anything else. 

"As a footballer, you have to be a bit selfish in some regard, especially at the top level, and I just felt like what I was doing with the developing of the girls, it was a lot more rewarding in the end than what I was doing for my own self in my career. 

"That's when I knew in my mind I'd be treading water next year if I was to remain on the list." 

Some honest chats with football manager Josh Mahoney unearthed a mutual decision for Garland to hang up the boots with a year left to run on his contract. 

But, after 141 AFL games since 2007, he didn't walk out the door with the club firmly in the rearview mirror.

His work with the women's program started as a way to keep his mind occupied while he fought back from the knee blow-out, which cruelly happened after a strong personal pre-season and less than a week before the Dees' 2017 season opener against St Kilda.

Garland's left knee collapsed when he landed from a marking contest in a VFL practice match between the Casey Demons and Port Melbourne, with scans the next day confirming the worst.

"I'd had a good pre-season and put everything into the year, and then my season was cut short six days before round one," he said. 

"You're going through all the emotions … you go through a period where you're a little bit lost and not sure what you're going to do for the year.

"Initially, I was just trying to keep involved and help out and do my best to help contribute but then as the year went on, I started having doubts about getting back. 

"It was really solidifying in my mind I wanted to do something like this."

Garland's involvement included working with the club's listed women's players, and even scouting missions that involved going to watch volleyball games.

He also spent every second Wednesday visiting inmates at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre, where, along with Neville Jetta, Jeff Garlett and Sam Frost, he'd take part in lessons and offer advice to kids trying to get their lives back on track. 

His love of the game influenced why he wanted to try another way to be a part of it, but he had no idea it would lead to his appointment as inaugural coach of the VFLW Casey Demons side as well as positions in development with their AFLW team, the AFL-listed players, and the next generation academy.

All up, an unfortunate pre-season accident led to a need to try new things, and now, Garland – who will also attempt to play for the Casey Demons in 2018 if his knee holds up – is pretty happy with how it's panned out.   

"I know where the club could potentially be next year and every spot is going to be really valuable in the pursuit of where we want to go," he said. 

"Even if I was going to be first picked in the side, I felt like mentally I was pretty done.

"I really like helping people out and I guess coaching in the end is helping people build their careers. 

"I didn't think it was going to lead to this, but I'm really excited about the opportunity."