THREE contracts, two ACL’s, one quarter of footy.
That’s the tale of Shae Sloane’s AFLW career to date.
The luckless key defender suffered a knee injury during the early stages of her senior debut in 2019, only to re-rupture that same ligament at training 10 months later.
Now, with her rehab on track, Sloane has put pen to paper for the 2021 season as she prepares to restart her career on the right note.
“I just want to finish a game – that’s kind of the first little goal, just to get out there and play again and actually finish a full game,” she told Melbourne Media.
After five Demons went down with ACL injuries during season four of the AFLW competition, the club had to make some difficult decisions during the trade period.
Sloane, and fellow defender Sarah Lampard, were the only two girls to receive contracts for next year, with light now at the end of the tunnel for Melbourne's No.26.
“I think I’ve been in rehab now for about 16 months,” she said.
“Obviously with all this COVID stuff too, this rehab has been completely different.
“I’m having to do a lot more independently … and being pretty self-motivated just to get up and do everything.
“I think it’s been a bit of a blessing too, to have this extra time and get everything right – get a fair bit of strength back into it and making sure that hopefully I don’t do another one.”
While this process has been a completely different experience the second time around, Sloane has gradually regained some confidence in her body.
“I’m back doing most things which is really good. Back running, kicking the footy, jumping, agility – all that sort of stuff,” she said.
“I’ve ticked a lot of boxes at the moment and now it’s just a matter of continuing to get it a bit stronger … but it’s tracking really well.”
The injury has affected the primary school teacher on and off the field, but the mental challenge may be the toughest aspect of all.
“It was a big battle, those first little bits,” Sloane said.
“Going back to square one and having a brace on for six weeks, then kind of losing all the muscle and watching my leg completely disappear in a way, was pretty strange.
“I think this whole rehab I’ve had to concentrate on the mental side a lot more.
“Obviously because of what’s going on (COVID-19), but also you have a few doubts in whether your knee can get back to the way it was and whether your body’s right to play football or not.
“But I think the more that I keep ticking off the little things, the more confidence I get back in it and I’m feeling pretty good with it at the moment which is nice.”
The 28-year-old, who has been in the AFL system for two years now, initially crossed over from volleyball to join the Dees as a rookie in 2018.
But while stuck on the sidelines, Sloane has still had some valuable opportunities to develop her game.
“I think the first year, being in the [coaches] box, was a lot of knowledge and learning about football in general, then last year, being on the bench, was just gaining a bit of an understanding about how to deal with teammates in different situations,” she said.
“That was a real benefit … and I think I’ll really be able to put that into place this year being on the ground with them and knowing those things I learnt last year.”
At 172cm, Sloane will play an important role for the Demons in defence, looking to help Libby Birch and Daisy Pearce – two girls she’s never played with – battle the opposition’s best key forwards each week.
And while she’s still relatively new to the sport, there’s no reason she can’t slot straight into the side come Round 1 next year.
“I loved that first season and getting out there and playing that first quarter – I absolutely loved everything about it,” Sloane said.
“Then the training last year, I was really starting to get my head around everything and feeling really good as a footballer.
“I’m definitely super keen to get back with everyone and just be around the group of girls that we’ve got.”