There’s nothing more soul destroying for a footy fan than to see a player go down with an injury in pre-season.
And it seems to be happening with increasing frequency.
Injuries in the heat of battle are bad enough, but at least you can justify them. Giving one’s all for the cause leads to injuries – always has, always will.
But injuries while preparing yourself for the heat of battle are particularly galling.
On Monday the AFL was rocked by news that Carlton ruckman and former number one draft pick Matthew Kreuzer would miss the start of the season after being diagnosed with a hairline fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.
The news was a massive blow for the big ruckman, who played just one game last year due to an injury in the same foot – although Carlton says the new complaint is in a different area.
That came after Melbourne youngster Christian Petracca, the highly-touted second pick in last year’s draft, ruptured his ACL at training and would miss the entire season.
For a club where hope has been in chronically short supply in recent years, his injury was a hammer blow.
Brisbane will be without Pearce Hanley for the opening part of the season due to a hip injury and Adelaide defender Brent Reilly’s playing future looks cloudy after he fractured his skull – at training.
Hawthorn’s Grant Birchall (tackling drill) and Port Adelaide’s Jackson Trengove (marking contest) have both injured their knees this pre-season, although not with the same severity as Petracca.
Ben Reid of Collingwood suffered another calf injury late last year, while last month Gold Coast midfielder Andrew Raines (knee) and GWS defender Lachie Plowman (dislocated elbow) both broke down at training.
In recent years, WA clubs have been cruelled by pre-season knee injuries – West Coast’s Mark LeCras and Fremantle’s Anthony Morabito both undergoing knee reconstructions.
The latter has endured a further two major operations, and his career remains in the balance more than four years after that initial reconstruction.
Australian Rules football is a physical game, and one needs to be thoroughly prepared for the intensity of the contest.
But it seems a very fine line between good preparation and ‘going too hard’, and that line is being crossed too often.
In 2015, when sports science boffins with laptops buzz around pre-season training like flies, surely they need to be more accountable when it comes to injury prevention?
At this time of year, all fans of Carlton and Melbourne have is hope. After Monday, they have less of it.