When Werribee forward Aiden Adams copped a knock to the shoulder in a match against Collingwood back in June 2015, he didn’t imagine it would be enough to keep him sidelined from football for almost two years.
“I thought I’d just dislocated my shoulder,” Adams recalls of the incident.
“But after three MRIs, two X-rays, and a few neurologist appointments, I finally found out that there was nerve damage.”
What followed for the 22-year-old former Mitta United star was a long and difficult road to recovery, which saw him forced to spend a “good year” focused on rehabilitation and strengthening exercises before he was even allowed back out on the training track.
At times, he wondered if he would ever return to the game he loved.
“The neurologist said it would be very hard to come back and it could end my career,” he says.
“For the first six months, I was very anxious of how I was going to track. I didn’t feel much improvement in it.”
Fortunately, Adams had a strong network behind him. As well as benefitting from the tireless efforts of the Tigers’ medical staff, he was aided through the arduous recovery process by Julie Allen and John Schwager, who have served as his host family since he first made the move from Victoria’s north east to Melbourne ahead of the 2015 season.
“They’re a very lovely couple,” says Adams. “They came and watched me at every game, and when I did my shoulder, they went through the whole thing with me, followed my progress, and came to all my appointments just to make sure everything was tracking all right.”
Thanks to the support of those around him and his own stubborn sense of determination, Adams finally appears to be out the other side. At Box Hill City Oval on Sunday, he ran out for Werribee’s development team for his first match since that fateful day.
Despite some initial trepidation, he emerged unscathed from a solid first-up hit-out.
“I didn’t come on until quarter time,” he says. “I was very anxious at the start, but as I got out there, the nerves settled and I was straight back into it, so it was good.
“I got a few hits on the shoulder and it felt good, so I was very happy with how it pulled up.”
It’s a result that comes as a huge relief for both Adams and the club, though both know there may yet be a few more twists and turns along the comeback road.
And while the prospect of a possible recall to the senior side is all the motivation Adams needs to keep up the good work, he is more than content to take things one step at a time for now.
“I’ll just keep working on my gym program, keep working on the shoulder with strength, and hopefully get some more game time during the next few weeks and just slowly work back into it and see how we go from there.”