I remember lying on the ground in agony, oblivious to how I’d found myself there.
It was my first taste of ANZAC Day and I’d enjoyed a consistent run in the seniors, but my luck was to turn in the blink of an eye. In such innocuous circumstances, too.
Assisted off the middle of the MCG before more than 90,000 silenced fans, I feared I’d done something serious. But as the pain quickly subsided and I took my place on the bench, I thought I was going to be OK.
Unfortunately, my day was over, and though I didn’t know it at the time, so too was my season. Relegated to the boundary, I felt like a letdown. After all, this was the biggest game of the home-and-away season and I was a mere spectator for the majority of it.
Nothing can prepare you for the news that you’ve ruptured an ACL, especially for a 19-year-old who had never done it before. My worst fears were confirmed the day after ANZAC Day, and what hit me the hardest was the realisation that I’d be out of the game I love for 12 months. Yep, a whole year.
In the early stages after my knee reconstruction, I remember being so worried about the unknown. Here I was, unable to do the things that were normally so natural, like walking, kicking a footy and playing golf with my teammates. At the time, it seemed like yesterday that I was sprinting, twisting and jumping uninhibited, but now I was learning how to walk again. How would I ever be the same again, I thought to myself.
The incredible guidance from the club’s rehab physios, my family, friends and girlfriend helped me enormously in those initial stages. I also have to thank ‘BJ’ (Brendon Goddard) – the only teammate who had suffered the same injury – whose experience was invaluable.
As I write this, almost 10 months since the injury, the support I’ve had continues to be unwavering and a big factor in the way I feel about my knee today – physically and mentally.
Josh Begley ices up after rupturing his ACL on ANZAC Day. (Photo: AFL Media)
I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, so let me share a few learnings over these past 10 months.
The first one is perspective. No matter how difficult you think your situation may be, there’s always someone going through something harder. If I take a teammate as an example, Marty Gleeson is the one that springs to mind.
My recovery has been smooth sailing, but Marty has had to deal with many challenges since going down with that ankle injury in March last year. He’s built so much resilience – another key learning - and knows what it takes to be mentally tough. That has rubbed off on me and inspired me.
Being together in rehab for so long, our friendship has come such a long way. You’ll often hear people say that rehab can be a lonely place at times, but I’ve been grateful to have Marty by my side, as well as Joe Daniher.
Another lesson learned is diligence. Absolute attention to detail in everything. You learn a lot about your body in your recovery from a knee reconstruction, because it’s not just about rehabbing the knee, but also improving everything that is connected to it to reduce the chance of the injury recurring.
Countless hours have been spent building equal strength between both legs and getting the hip-knee-foot alignment correct. Every Wednesday, Ash Lynch (rehab physio) takes me to Niddrie Gymnastics, where I’m put through a rigorous 30 minutes of taking off and landing. They’re tough sessions, but they’ve been great for me.
Josh Begley has worked closely with rehab physio Ashley Lynch. (Photo: Essendon Football Club)
Throughout this whole process, the taste of senior footy last year has only driven me to tick every box and go above and beyond. My goal is to recapture that form and consistently be one of the first 22 picked in my third season.
That quest will be helped by the fact that I’ve improved areas that needed improving during my time on the sidelines, like kicking on my non-preferred foot and building my upper body. I feel stronger than ever, but ultimately I need to reach the point where I’m not thinking about the knee when I’m in match conditions. There’s still some progress to be made there, but I’m close.
Time spent working on his opposite foot is set to benefit Josh Begley in 2019. (Photo: Essendon Football Club)
It was so pleasing to watch the boys’ finish to the 2018 season, and I’ve noticed a genuine camaraderie and care among the group this pre-season. I think we’re in a good spot to build in 2019, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.