ESSENDON recruit Nick O’Brien remains optimistic of making his AFL debut this season as he battles to overcome a serious ankle injury.
The former North Ballarat Rebels captain, who was taken at pick 59 by the Bombers in last year’s national draft, is five weeks into his recovery from a strained lisfranc ligament, which he suffered in the Bendigo Bombers’ round three VFL clash with Port Melbourne.
O’Brien told The Courier he had been surprised when scans revealed the injury was worse than first anticipated.
“I thought it was hopefully only going to be a couple (of weeks), but when they said that it was a bit of shock,” O’Brien said.
The 18-year-old, who spent two weeks on crutches and only got out of a “moon boot” on Monday, is expected to resume running training in the coming weeks.
He is then earmarking a return through the VFL by late June.
“If I can get back running in two weeks I’d be rapt with that,” O’Brien said.
“I’ll walk, run, make sure the calf is back to normal size and then you want a good two or three weeks of high-intensity training, match simulation sort of stuff.
“If my body’s able to heal quicker than expected, that’s a bonus, but the physios will be pretty cautious with it.”
O’Brien, a strong-marking forward, has had an injury-troubled start to his career as a professional footballer.
The former St Patrick’s College student hurt a quadricep muscle in his Essendon debut in the NAB Cup, which was on the same left leg as his current ankle injury.
He said it been hard not being able to kick on his favoured left boot.
"I've been to all the Bendigo games and gone to as much AFL footy, whether it’s Essendon or not, just to learn as much of the game and watch different players,” he said.
O’Brien, who wears number 35 for his new club, played all five matches for Victoria Country at last year’s AFL Under-18 Championships, where he averaged 18 disposals and six marks.
He was then selected by the Bombers as a third round pick.
O’Brien said his spirits had been kept high during the current lay-off, which had been helped by reassurance from coach James Hird and his time living with Bendigo Bombers coach Hayden Skipworth.