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Melbourne Football Club

Grateful to be back: Mitch Lewis

WHEN Mitch Lewis succumbed to not one, but two knee injuries in 2017, he thought his VFL career could be over.

But in fact, it was just the beginning.

At just 19 years of age, Lewis has returned to the Casey Demons this year and improved arguably more than any other.

After putting in the hard yards off the field, Lewis was finally able to seek the rewards on the weekend with a standout game against Port Melbourne.

But getting to the point of full fitness has been a lengthy, challenging process.

“In the last pre-season game last year I had a pretty bad knee injury,” Lewis told Melbourne Media.

“I dislocated it, had bone bruising and nicked my ACL, but didn’t rupture it.

“So it was all these little things that led to eight weeks out.”

This initial setback was frustrating for Lewis, but his luck upon return was what tested him most.

“I came back for three games and injured my meniscus,” he said.

“It was a pretty rough run but I’m better off for it now.”

Lewis made a strong start to 2018, finding some form in the practice matches and the first two games of the season.

“It was good to get an opportunity to play round one,” he said.

“I was really grateful for that … it was awesome.”

But more bad luck soon followed, as Lewis was concussed in round three.

The nasty head knock happened in the opening 30 seconds against the Tigers, sidelining him yet again.

With misfortune aplenty, many would surrender, conceding the game just isn’t for them, but not Lewis.

His positive attitude is a highlight of his personality and keeps him looking forward.

“It could’ve been worse I suppose,” Lewis said.

“Fingers crossed I get a clear run at it in the next few weeks.”

Amidst the challenges of recovery, there was a time when retirement from the league crossed his mind.

“It got pretty frustrating at times, having to do recovery to come back, then doing it again,” Lewis said.

“I was pretty close to calling it quits on VFL at the start of the year.”

But he decided to give his career another shot, working harder than ever to get his body right for 2018.

“I was doing a few PT sessions a week with my personal trainer and a running program that they set up,” he said.

“It was pretty tough.

“I had to work hard just to get back to that full fitness and have full trust in my body.”

Casey coach Jade Rawlings said Lewis’ commitment over the off-season was exceptional and his game continues to develop.

“Mitch has been one of the biggest improvers in our program at Casey since I took over the job,” Rawlings told Melbourne Media.

“He’s had knee issues over the time but hasn’t missed a session.

“He’s a terrific person, really competitive and an elite runner.

“I’ve got really high hopes for where he can take his career because he puts the work in and he’s well respected within our footy club.”

Lewis’ training standards are elite and he is the sort of player you want on your side.

“We’ve got a really high level of work ethic at Casey and Mitch is right up in the top echelon,” Rawlings said.

“He’s serious about his career, and his training reflects the seriousness of how much he wants to be a player.

“I really like coaching him and I love having him in our team.”

While playing in the VFL poses numerous challenges, Lewis admits putting in the hard yards off the field is the key to his success.

“That’s one of my assets that I’ve learned over time with my injuries,” Lewis said.

“You’ve got to work twice as hard to get back to that full fitness so that’s something I push myself to achieve.”

But settling into the standard of football in the league is not easy.

“I definitely thing it’s a big step up and requires a lot of work to improve,” Lewis said.

“I think I’ve improved a lot this year.

“Being able to learn from injuries and get a full pre-season in and some practice games under my belt has really helped.”

While the on-going battle with injury has hindered Lewis’ progression, it hasn’t changed his attack on the ball.

“In a sense it has made me go a little bit harder,” he said.

“You have to take the opportunities you have when you’re out there and put your best foot forward.

“And just enjoy your time playing with a great group of guys down at Casey and the coaching staff as well.”

It was easy for Lewis to enjoy his football on the weekend as he thrived in a role change to be one of the Demons best performers in its victory over The Borough.

With 19 disposals in a running role off half-back, Lewis showed glimpses of his ability which Rawlings has seen so much of.

“It was an outstanding game from a young man playing his fifth VFL game,” Rawlings said.

“When we lost (Jayden) Hunt we had to replace him, and we thought Lewis would be able to do it for us.

“It just shows how professional he is and how driven he is to succeed.

“He just wants to be the best he can be and I love coaching players who put the time in and want to listen.”

Lewis is a relaxed character who is enjoying every step of his football journey, and if he can continue to perform the way he did on Saturday he will be a weapon for the Demons in 2018.