Melbourne forward Tom McDonald has made the brave decision to leave a metal plate in his foot in a bid to take part in the club’s finals campaign.
The 29-year-old hasn’t played AFL since suffering a Lisfranc foot injury back in Round 10.
But he took his first steps towards a recall on Saturday, finishing his first VFL game with the Casey Demons.
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McDonald racked up 11 touches and kicked 1.1 in his first outing and admits he’s in a race against time to force his way back into Melbourne’s line up come finals.
“I got through, a bit sore towards the end with a bit of stiffness and soreness,” he told Melbourne media.
“Been a bit of a rushed timeframe but the aim was to get back and play finals.
“I was nervous driving in, just because you’re nervous to play footy again.
“I’ll try to do as much training as I can.
“The gym stuff is probably the most important to get the foot strength back.”
McDonald even turned to Facebook’s Marketplace for a pair of second-hand footy boots, given he opted to leave the metal wear in his foot to keep his 2022 season alive.
“Just with the screws in my foot, I needed boots with a bit more width so I’ve gone to Facebook marketplace,” he laughed telling media.
“You can’t get footy boots anywhere. So I search the ‘net and that’s what I had to run with.
“Typically you have the surgery and around this time you’d take the metal wear out of my foot, but the sort of explanation to me was if we did that, we had no chance to play finals.”
McDonald was a key contributor to the Demons’ 2021 premiership campaign, and finished with two goals in the grand final in Perth.
But the big forward said he had doubts he could return in 2022 given the “unpredictable” nature of his injury.
“You do the work, do the program they set out. It’s more the mindset to not get up,” he admitted.
“There was probably three or four times and I came house and said to (wife Ruby) Rubes, ‘It’s not going to happen. I’m not going to get there’.
“It was just so up and down. It’s the hardest injury I’ve ever had. It was unpredictable.”
McDonald is aiming to continue pressing his AFL claims in the VFL in the coming weeks, in the hope of being part of another premiership campaign.
“I can get through a game – just whether my performance warrants it,” he said.
“I think the AFL team is good enough to go back-to-back so I want to be part of that.”