IN terms of career peaks, kicking six goals on the MCG stage is up there as one of the top points you can reach.

That’s where Melbourne’s Harrison Petty was sitting in July of 2023.

Having made the move to the forward line from defence, Petty was beginning to write a new chapter in his football career.

But just seven days later, he was forced to put this chapter on pause, struck down with a season-ending injury during Round 21.

The 24-year-old underwent surgery on his foot, with the unknown ahead, the surgeon yet to understand the severity of the break.

“I was pretty nervous going into the surgery,” Petty told Melbourne Media.

It was one of my first major surgeries and they weren't too sure on how bad the damage was until they opened it up.

“So, I was a little bit nervous that it was worse than expected.

“But everything went well, so I was happy with that.”


The surgery was just the start for Petty though, with the journey back from a Lisfranc injury being a long and often isolated one.

The next two months would be filled with a limited rehab schedule - no weight allowed on the effected foot for six weeks.

Selwyn Griffith, Melbourne’s High-Performance Manager, gave some insight on the early stages of rehab, explaining the nature of Petty’s program.

“That period is a really tricky [one] because you're trying to get some form of aerobic conditioning into the athlete,” Griffith said.

That's where it can be challenging mentally for the athlete, making sure that they’re feeling motivated.”

Petty himself found it difficult, the combination of restricted movement and the time spent away from the main group making it particularly hard for the Demon. 

“The worst part about it was when I had the surgery, I couldn't put any weight on my left foot for six weeks,” Petty said.

“So, I was on crutches and on a scooter for a lot of the time, which was pretty challenging at home.

“You definitely need others to get you through rehab.

“It's not great fun, especially when you're sitting on the bike for an hour and a half at a time and you're watching the boys run out on the oval and train.

“That's all you want to do, is be out there and you're stuck on the bike, spinning your legs over.”

After an arduous schedule back to almost full fitness, the utility was then hit with another devastating blow.

“I was on track to play Round 1 and then [at training] I just sort of went to jump and landed a little bit weird,” Petty said.

“I was stressing pretty hard at the start, because it was something that I'd never felt before.

So, I sort of had no clue what was going on.”

Petty had injured his toe and was set for yet another surgery.

The determined Demon then started his second rehab program within the space of six months, his dreams of a Round 1 return gone.  

Alan Richardson, Melbourne’s GM AFL Football Performance, praised the efforts of Petty during both the original injury and the minor setback.

“Petts has been incredibly resilient,” Richardson said.

“He had a frustrating pre-season period after surgery at the end of the year, but for him to come in and train the way he did to give himself a chance to play, it was just so impressive to watch.

“It would have been a challenge for any person, but we're grateful for that.”

In true Petty style, the Demon was hard-working through his second rehab, intent on making a return to AFL as soon as physically possible.

His time came in Round 2.

Melbourne was set to face Hawthorn at the MCG and the fans were eager to know if their six-goal man would make his return. 

“So, I got told I was playing AFL at main training and Goody sort of just came up to me and gave me a pat on the back in the warm-up and said, ‘you right to go?’ and I said ‘yeah, I'm ready to go’ and he just said ‘you're in’.

"There were a lot of nerves because it's been a long time since I’d played.

To get back out on the ‘G in front of the fans…yeah, I was excited, very excited."

On return, Petty reminded everyone of his talent, collecting nine marks in a last minute switch to the backline.

The 24-year-old has now played four AFL games in 2024, making the term swingman his very own, playing crucial roles in the Demons' defence and forward line.