THE desperation to return from serious injury as quick as possible is somewhat of a regret for Hepburn captain Dan O’Halloran.
Wind the clock back to the start of 2012 and the Burras onballer was at the top of his game.
O’Halloran had just come off a standout season with the club, which returned a runner-up placing in the Geoff Taylor Medal count behind winner Louis Franc, and was ready to tackle the new campaign head on.
The Burras were again shaping as one of the powerhouse teams in the competition and had thumped Learmonth by 135 points in the opening round of the season.
But as quick as a flash, it all went horribly wrong.
“I got pushed in the back and hyper-extended my knee as the ball went over the boundary line,” O’Halloran recalled of the round two clash with Beaufort.
“I knew it was bad. You could get up and jog again, but after I stopped for about 10 or 15 minutes it had blown up huge and I couldn’t walk all that night.
“I got into the surgeon on the following Tuesday and they sent me down for scans. They came back the next day or so and he told me it was an ACL.”
The injury, for most, would have been season-ending, but O’Halloran’s desire to get back and potentially be part of something special saw him opt for LARS surgery ahead of traditional reconstructive methods.
“I’d known a few people who had done it, who were all positive about it, and they thought I could get back in 12-13 weeks. We were looking pretty good throughout the season,” he said.
“We thought we were a really strong chance to win a flag.”
After surgery and extensive rehabilitation, O’Halloran was back in a Hepburn jumper a few weeks before the end of the home and away season.
But his premiership dream went up in flames when the Burras bowed out of the flag race in heart-breaking fashion against Buninyong in the preliminary final.
“It’s only this last four or five weeks that I’ve finally been able to sprint. It has taken a full 12 months — or longer — to get back so I probably would have went the traditional (knee reconstruction) in hindsight,” O’Halloran said.
“Now I’ve been speaking to a few more people and you feel like it’s a little bit of a ticking time bomb — it’s only a matter of time ... you just don’t know how long (LARS) is going to last.”
O’Halloran’s preparations for 2013 have also been less than ideal.
The 25-year-old had minor off-season knee surgery before his job at mineral processing equipment and systems company Gekko Systems took him overseas twice during the pre-season, even missing the round one loss to Waubra.
Despite this, the skipper has played an important role in the Burras’ fortunes, with senior coach Clive Raak describing his leadership as “outstanding” throughout the year.
O’Halloran knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle, having won senior premierships in 2008 and 2010, and thinks this could be the year of the Burra.
“We definitely don’t have the star-studded side that we’ve had in the previous flags, but the kids who are coming through have just really outdone themselves this year. Finn (Anscombe) and Joe (Malone) and those sorts of players. And I think they just want it a lot more, as well,” he said.
For O’Halloran, hopefully the hard work and will to succeed pays off this time around.