Essendon star Michael Hurley has vowed to play again, despite fears a dangerous infection could force an early retirement.
The 30-year-old was struck down with a hip infection in February, which doctors suspect originated from a blister in his foot.
The infection required two painful operations, with Hurley bedridden for several weeks.
In an exclusive interview with Channel 7, Hurley revealed the extent of his health battle and the serious threat it has posed to his distinguished AFL career.
"I actually had the nurse and doctor come around (to my house) one morning, and they had a look at me and said, 'Sorry, Michael. You're going to have go back in and have another lot of surgery. That broke my heart a little bit'," Hurley said.
"I suppose that (retirement) conversation was had with the surgeon after the second lot of surgery, but the way I'm progressing at the moment, I have no reason to think I won't get back."
While there's no timeframe on Hurley's return, the dual All Australian is expected to resume running this week.
It will be a major milestone for Hurley, who hasn't lost the drive to play again.
He said overcoming setbacks before, like the supplements saga, WADA-imposed ban and COVID-impacted 2020, had given him the perspective needed to conquer his latest challenge.
"I guess I was thinking not long ago that if this was the way I was going to go out, I'd be pretty flat. There's that motivation to get back, play senior footy again and be a part of this young group going forward," Hurley said.
"It's (career) been a bit of a journey. I guess not many people can say they've had this many ups and downs throughout their career, but it puts into perspective just how much I love playing footy. It's been taken away a few times, and this is just another one of them.
"When you're not playing and you're putting in all the hard work to get back, it shows you how much you love it."