Nicholas Rupolo, Narrandera Argus
Narrandera-born GWS Giant Matt Flynn is set for an AFL debut this week after recovering from a devastating ACL injury last year.
The Giants host St Kilda on Sunday with Flynn to take to the paddock in what is a dream come true after 12 years in the making.
Braydon Preuss is struggling with a shoulder injury while veteran Shane Mumford has backed the Giants academy graduates to grab hold of the ruckman position.
“A debut in round one would be very special and a long time coming,” Flynn told The Argus.
“To hear the support from Shane who has been a massive mentor in my career is really special.
“I’ve been part of this academy since I was 12 or 13 years old.
“It was a big step to go from being 18 years old living in Narrandera and then I guess being drafted and three days later being whisked away and moving to Sydney.”
The quiet of Narrandera is a far cry from the big smoke of Sydney, but it was in his hometown that Flynn — in the stress of a potential career-ending injury — thought about quitting.
Prior to the start of the AFL season last year Flynn was kicking goals and looking on the horizon of his much-awaited debut.
But a heartbreaking ACL injury halted his hopes of progress. ACL injuries are common in sportspeople and can take up to a full year to recover.
It wasn’t just the battle against rehab and recovery, the mental toughness the 23-year-old needed was a drain.
“For me (the injury) came at a really untimely point in my career and I thought i was playing some really good football and pushing my case to make a debut,” Flynn said.
“I went up to Darwin and it was a very innocuous incident, I went back with the ball a bit and collided with someone, at the time I wasn’t too sure of it.
“I got back form Darwin and went into Sydney and found out on the Monday night my ACL had ruptured.
“I think the hardest thing for me was the mental struggle of it.
“It felt like you were looking down a long dark path and you knew the work that was ahead but you felt the end was still so far away.
“There were periods of my rehab especially in those early months that I was thinking, do I want to keep going along with it?
“Mentally it was so hard.
“I said it to dad in the car ride home, I said to him multiple times that I didn’t want to do it I didn’t want to do the rehab I thought it’d be too much for me.”
After making his recovery, Flynn looks back on the beginning of the path back to footy and believes it has made him a better player and a better person.
“In the moment I felt like I didn’t want to do it, but I don’t think I ever would have actually walked away.
“Looking back in hindsight it was one of the best things that happened in my career because I came back a lot stronger and a lot more resilient.”
This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 18 March 2021.