As I type here in Sydney, with a broken thumb and an external stent taped to the front of my surgically-repaired nose, the wear and tear of Australian rules is plain to see.
nd I’m one of the lucky ones. I still haven’t missed a game this season and remain hopeful, with the aid of a splint on my right hand, that I can pass a fitness test tomorrow to clear me for our Round 5 game at Adelaide Crows on Sunday.
Collingwood’s Aishling Sheridan (knee) and Niamh Kelly (shoulder) of Adelaide are expected to at least miss the next few weeks due to injuries they picked up last weekend. Rachel Kearns suffered a serious shoulder injury for Geelong in Round 1, ending her second AFLW season before it could even get started.
Ailish Considine is still working her way back from a hamstring issue and is yet to feature this season for the Crows, while Sinéad Goldrick (knee) of Melbourne and St Kilda’s Grace Kelly (Achilles) are also yet to play in this campaign.
It’s par for the course when playing weekly matches in such a physical sport.
I broke my nose in Round 2 when I got caught by the head of a Brisbane Lions girl while bending to pick up the ball. It’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve broken my nose through football of some sort, and I had hoped to avoid surgery until the end of the season.
Unfortunately, the break made it impossible to breathe through the left nostril, so I went under the knife to fix it about 10 days ago and have been managing to train and play with a combination of internal and external stents. It’s not pretty, but it’s kept me on the field.
It may be trickier to persuade the doctors to let me play with the broken thumb, sustained in a tackle about six or seven minutes into last weekend’s defeat to the Eagles.
I’m still not sure if I landed awkwardly or someone stood on it. At first, I thought I had just done something to the nail. But by the end of the game the swelling around the top of the right thumb indicated there was significant damage done – and sure enough, there were a few fractures in there.
Ideally, you would get a pin inserted into it to hold everything in place – but that would require me to miss a couple of weeks – which I’m determined to avoid.
I reckon I’m about 50:50 to play this weekend as it stands, so fingers – and thumbs – crossed.
That list of ailments for the Irish in the AFLW reminds me how robust Zach Tuohy actually is to be playing his 250th AFL game on Saturday – which at one stage included 138 consecutive matches.
For Zach and Mark O’Connor – who should at least be Geelong’s medical sub if he doesn’t sneak into the match-day squad – to be so close to emulating Tadhg Kennelly as an Irish AFL Premiership winner is a remarkable achievement.
But in particular for Zach, to have played so many games at the highest level in a sport he learned as an adult is really special.
He’s so tough, he puts his head where many others wouldn’t – and still gets himself right to play every week.
And when he’s fit, Zach always plays – he’s that valuable to Geelong.
Zach is also widely considered to be one of the best kickers of the Sherrin in the country – a ball he didn’t know the feel or dimensions of until he was about 21.
I exchange texts with Zach and Mark regularly enough; we wish each other well for matches etc, and they’re both great guys.
When I signed for the Giants in 2017, Zach was one of the first people to ring me to offer his support if I needed it at any stage – that’s the kind of man he is.
Mark and Zach have evolved in recent seasons, emerging from their defensive shackles.
Zach has spent time as an inside midfielder and as a forward, but he is excelling in his current wing role – making tackles, linking play with his sharp passing, and kicking vital goals in big moments.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have such an impact in Saturday’s Grand Final against Sydney Swans (from 5.30am Irish time) that he ends up being heavily involved in the conversation for the Norm Smith Medal (Grand Final Man-of-the-Match award).
Mark has been unfortunate with injuries over the past year and is fighting for a spot on the most competitive roster in the AFL. But he has established himself as one of the best taggers (man-markers) in the game, and he remains an accomplished and versatile option for the Cats; he can also play midfield or on the wing, which should help his case for selection.
I texted Zach and Mark after their preliminary final win against Brisbane last weekend and they are both buzzing.
The Grand Final is such a big occasion here, there’s so much pageantry all week: from the Brownlow Medal (Player of the Year) ceremony right up until the first bounce on Saturday afternoon at a rocking, sold-out MCG.
I have a soft spot for our city rivals too. I’ve been a big fan of their star forward Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin for some time and their Irish duo of Colin O’Riordan and Barry O’Connor, even though neither will be involved tomorrow, have become good friends with myself and Bríd Stack.
If I wasn’t heading to Adelaide with the Giants this weekend you can be certain I’d be calling in all sorts of favours to be one of the 100,000 fans at the MCG on Saturday – despite the A$400 (€269) average cost – because it should be a cracker.
Unless something goes horribly wrong for Geelong, I expect them to win it.
After the luckless run some of the Irish crew have had out here of late, an AFL Premiership success for Zach and Mark would be just the tonic for some welcome relief.