LUCKLESS Melbourne defender Shae Sloane has just one goal coming into the NAB AFLW 2021 season – to play a full game of football.
Sloane, a former Australian volleyball captain, ruptured her right ACL in round one of 2019, her debut match at the top level after playing some VFLW games for Casey.
She diligently did all her rehab, and had pretty much returned to full training when her leg was caught in a tackle at training in December of that year, re-rupturing the same ACL.
It ruled her out for all of 2020, and the 28-year-old primary teacher is grateful to the Dees for giving her a one-year contract.
"I was a little bit nervous, having done two knees and being a bit older, I wasn't sure whether they would stick with me or not," Sloane told womens.afl.
"Having that meeting with Todd (Patterson, list manager), as soon as he told me, there was just this big feeling of relief and gratefulness, and just that excitement to have another pump at it and get out there with everyone.
"I'd be so happy to get one game locked away, I think it'd do heaps for me mentally and physically, to be able to prove to myself that I can play a game. And I'm all on track to be able to do that at some point this year."
It's safe to say rehab 2.0 has been a different experience for Sloane, the younger sister of Adelaide AFL skipper Rory.
Not only was she having to deal with a patella issue, having done more damage this time around, she was trying to build strength after surgery in a state where gyms were closed due to COVID-19.
"It was a bit easier to begin with. We went into lockdown pretty soon after surgery, so that part was a little bit easier because I knew the steps I had to take and the little boxes I had to tick off in those early stages post-surgery," Sloane said.
"But from there, it was definitely difficult not being able to access a gym. Strength is such a big part of getting your ACL back to the level you want it to be, and then this time around I had a patella tendon graft, and I've had just a little bit of pain in that graft as well.
"That's allowed me to do more things at time but has also limited some movements."
Sloane's rehab got a boost when she spent five weeks in one of the AFL's hubs, accompanying her partner Seamus, who works in the Western Bulldogs' media team.
"He was gone for four months, so after three, I was able to get up there and spend some time in that environment and benefited a lot from it rehab-wise as well as mentally," she said.
"We were in different hubs from the Dees, they were up in Maroochydore and we were down in the Gold Coast. I didn't actually see anyone from Melbourne when I was up there, it was just keeping in touch with everyone back [in Victoria].
"They sent me programs and everything, so I was very lucky to have the support of our strength and conditioning coach, and our physio as well, she was great."
After taking a few weeks away from the club after re-injuring her knee, Sloane slotted into a role on the bench on matchday, working with her backline teammates.
She's looking forward to now finally being on the receiving end of messages from the interchange, and with Harriet Cordner having moved to Richmond, a spot is vacant in defence.
"I was working on a bit of leadership and how to communicate with the girls on game day, reacting to the way the girls were playing and what they needed at that time," she said.
"I think that was a really beneficial role for me, still being involved on game day, and learning how to interact with the girls in a game situation, while not being on the field.
"Hopefully it's something I can take into next year when I'm actually playing with them."