AFTER being drafted to an AFL club, all you would want to do is get out on the field and make a good first impression.

Aaron Nietschke has been deprived of an opportunity to do that.

He joined Melbourne via the 2018 National Draft (pick No.53), before rupturing his ACL in the early stages of his first pre-season.

Twelve months later, history repeated itself, sidelining him for a second consecutive year.

Now, the finish line of his recovery is in sight, which means the starting line of his young career is near.

“This is the longest I’ve made it into a pre-season, so it’s going well so far,” Nietschke told Melbourne Media.

“I’ve been pretty much full training the whole time since we’ve been back post-Christmas.

“I’m feeling really good – pretty much getting more confident with every week that goes past.”

And while things are looking up for the 20-year-old, who is due for a change of luck, the road has not been easy.

“It definitely takes its toll – especially during last year,” Nietschke said.

“When we were coming out to Casey during COVID, the rehab guys couldn’t even go in the groups with any of the other guys.

“They were some pretty tough times.

“But I just had to keep focused on getting back – that’s all you can really think about.”

Nietschke’s determination has never wavered, completing his rehab as professionally as possible.

But the isolation from the group has been the toughest hurdle to overcome.

“It’s definitely been way more mentally challenging than physically,” he said.

“Going around the second time, I knew all the stages – I was pretty confident I could tick them all off.

“The second time has been way better than the first time physically, but mentally it’s just a lot harder.”

Despite never taking to the field, Nietschke has grown a lot as a player and a person throughout his first two years in the AFL system.

But the South Australian, who has been training on the wing and across half-back in the early stages of 2021, isn’t putting too much pressure on himself in his official debut season.

“I’m just looking to get into the VFL and play a bit of footy,” he said.

“I’ve been through pre-season, now I need the next exposure of a real game with real intensity to have the confidence that I’ll be right and I’ll get through it.

“I don’t really know how I’m going to go at the level either, so we’ll find out, I guess.”