By JESS WEBSTER
When Southport midfielder Haydn Kiel received the news of a second ACL injury last year he thought his career was over.
A Grogan medallist for the NEAFL Northern Conference’s best player in 2013, it was Kiel’s second knee reconstruction in four years after his first ACL tear in 2014.
It was a devastating blow for the popular clubman, who remarkable played out the match through his injury in Round 3 last year when the Sharks lost to Brisbane at South Pine.
It wasn’t until scans revealed three days later that his season was over, and sent Kiel crashing back to earth.
“I was behind someone and went to twist and it just buckled. I wasn’t kind of sure if I had done it though,” Kiel recalled.
“I ended up going back on and playing the rest of the game. It felt okay, but the way it swelled up on Saturday night – I literally couldn’t move – I thought I’d better go get a scan.
“Definitely when I got the news I thought, ‘that’s it, it’s all over’.”
But the 30-year-old slowly regained his hunger to return to the NEAFL, and is set to resume full training in the next month ahead of his comeback in 2018.
The former Hawthorn and Brisbane rookie said the club left the decision up to him, and as the weeks slowly went by he soon realised his time wasn’t up just yet.
“This one was definitely harder mentally. I struggled a bit when I first did it, knowing what was ahead with the rehab and stuff,” he said.
“I took a month off and got away and assessed my options. Once I thought about it all, and got the operation done, I was back in a better headspace.
“They (the club) have been awesome. They’ve been a massive support the whole way through which has made my rehab easier.
“Looking back now I’m grateful it did happen because you learn something about yourself and it makes you progress in other areas of your life. Both (surgeries) have made me grow a bit in other areas of my life which has been really good.”
Kiel can be forgiven for thinking premiership success was something of the norm at the proud Gold Coast club.
The Sharks have won 21 premierships in 57 years since forming in 1961, with Kiel himself playing in two consecutive QAFL premierships as a 17 and 18-year-old back in 2005 and 2006 before he was drafted.
But it has been a long 10 years since the Sharks last graced the Grand Final stage – making Kiel the last premiership player left on their list.
It’s a statistic he is desperate to change – and with four Preliminary Final losses in that period – Kiel is adamant the Sharks “need a big year”.
“I want that to change – I don’t want to be the last premiership player there,” he said.
“When you play in grand finals and win premierships when your 17 or 18 you think that’s the norm.
“They are so hard to get to, but I think with this competition we’ve seen it can change year to year, so we’ve just got to put ourselves in a position to play finals.
“I think there is a lot of people around the club who put in a lot of time and work for us to be in a good position, so we’ve got to replay the faith to all the volunteers and coaches. We definitely need a big year.”
With new coach Stephen Daniel at the helm and a massive overhaul of the club’s list – which includes the recruitments of former Gold Coast utility Ryan Davis, Port Melbourne premiership player Brodie Murdoch, and Brisbane NEAFL premiership player Josh Clayton – Kiel said the environment is the most positive he’s seen in years.
“It’s super exciting. Obviously there have been a lot of changes the last few years, but I think with our young group, and having all the new guys coming in who are all energetic and wanting to learn, it’s been really good,” he said.
“I think with me being one of the older boys now, it’s good to see that enthusiasm from the young blokes. It’s a good feeling around the club at the moment and I’m looking forward to a good season ahead.”
Southport begins their 2018 campaign against Canberra in a Good Friday season opener clash at Queanbeyan.
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