Ruckman David Kovacevic put on a brave face in the Sunbury rooms as his team-mates prepared to take on Bacchus Marsh in the BFL grand final at the Eastern Oval on Saturday.
He was still smiling, but on the inside he was hurting after being ruled out on the back of surgery to re-attach a tendon to his right ring finger.
“It sucks,” Kovacevic said.
Kovacevic had an outstanding year, vying with the Cobras’ Daniel Burton for the distinction of the competition’s best ruckman.
It was not only a personal blow for Kovacevic, it was a major setback for Sunbury’s hopes of upsetting Bacchus Marsh – and his absence told as the match progressed.
Kovacevic suffered the injury against Darley in an elimination final, but initially did not think much about it.
He said he thought it was no more than a jarred finger, but it was in his work as a plumber that his concerns grew that there might be more to it.
The key Lion said it was after playing Bacchus Marsh in the second semi-final that scans revealed the severity of the damage.
He was told that once detached the tendon would shrink and it was important to have surgery as soon as possible.
Kovacevic said he just got through the win over Lake Wendouree in the preliminary final and when the chance to have an operation came up on the Monday of grand final week he had no choice, but to have it.
He said he had still hoped to play, but it was quickly obvious he would not be able to.
Keen to try to maintain a veil of secrecy, Sunbury named Kovacevic in its line-up, with it not confirmed publicly he would be missing until arriving at the ground with the hand bandaged and finger in a splint. Trent Stead replaced him in the line-up.