Imagine you’re in this scenario: you’ve been an AFL player for four years, after being overlooked in the National Draft, and being given a chance in the Rookie Draft, with your left arm in a sling due to a recently reconstructed shoulder.
You’ve worked hard, to the extent that you’ve been promoted to the senior list and given a game in Round 1 in your second year.
You’ve continued with that trait, seized your opportunity, and you’ve then become an important part of that team’s structure in their surge to top four and finals footy.
And then, with premiership aspirations coming closer and closer, and with a win against Fremantle all but signed and delivered, you’ve hurt your shoulder.
What’s worse is you know that that shoulder yank, with a history of them, wasn’t a good sign by any means, and could leave your season teetering on the edge of falling into relative nothingness.
That is Jared Petrenko’s scenario. And, while slightly dissimilar, it is the same scenario undergone by Hawk Brent Guerra and Swan Ben McGlynn in the last three weeks.
All three players have succumbed to the dreaded and unfortunate late-season injury, Guerra and McGlynn both with hamstring injuries in Round 22 and a Qualifying Final respectively.
These are important losses for their sides, as the trio play different yet equally vital roles within their teams, all as a part of the best 22. Not as important as the loss of a captain or a ruckman, but important enough to significantly matter.
But it is the reactions from these three players that lets it become so much more.
Guerra’s hamstring popped late in the match in which it occurred, and immediately his facial expression gave the severity of the injury away. Hobbling off the field, he whacked the bench in pure frustration and was somewhat incommunicable as a result, being consoled by teammates and coaches on the bench.
McGlynn and Petrenko, on the other hand, reacted with pure disappointment, with the former visibly in tears after straining his hamstring and being substituted off, while the latter walked off with teammates in support, fighting tears and supporting his shoulder.
Both sung the team song with reddened faces and tears in their eyes.
With these three teams left in the four-way race for the premiership, it is guaranteed that one of these players will desperately be pushing to overcome their recent injury to push for a Grand Final.
It is the realisation that these teams are so close to a premiership that drives these apparent emotions.
It is the life and career of these people to become a part of the teams that reach these heights, and with the threatening monkey on their backs suggesting that their dream may not become a reality is heartbreaking.
They are dreams that they have fought, battled and dedicated themselves for, and for just about their entire lives as well.
It takes it outside the context of a game, and makes it so much more.
For something that these people live daily for, it’s so depressing to see something as simple as injuries stand in the way of achieving those dreams.
And there’s no doubt that the entire AFL community is backing them, urging them to get to full fitness and potentially achieve just what they work so hard for.