Collingwood’s young superstar Nick Daicos has opened up on the injury at the end of last year that had the whole AFL world in a spin.
In Round 21 last season, AFL fans had their hearts in their mouths when Daicos was taken off the ground after he was crunched in a marking contest during Collingwood’s shock loss to Hawthorn.
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In what was the worst game of his already glittering AFL career, a dejected Daicos was then seen on the bench as fans were left to wonder just how bad the injury was.
It soon became apparent that Daicos had a hairline fracture in his knee and would miss the next six weeks of action.
The implications were massive, with Daicos a Brownlow Medal favourite and the Pies heading into the finals as a red-hot premiership chance.
A concerned Nick Daicos on the bench after he injured his knee last year. Credit: AAP
The countdown was on.
In an exclusive interview on Thursday, 7NEWS chief AFL reporter Mitch Cleary asked Daicos about the knee issue that dominated the news headlines last September.
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“We all tracked your knee last year in the finals pretty closely and your old man (Peter, hinted) that it was a bit worse than what was let on … how did you … manage that heading into the grand final?” Cleary asked.
Daicos said he was just purely driven by getting the knee right and then getting up for the preliminary final against GWS.
And his return was immense, with Daicos having a pivotal 28 touches and four tackles in the thrilling one-point win that sent his team into the decider.
“After the prelim it was just how could I best recover for the grand final … and then I was so focused on the game itself, I think I didn’t let my knee bother me too much.
“And when you’re in a grand final, it’s just all systems go, so you have no real concerns about your body or your safety.
“My knee’s feeling really good at the moment,” he admitted.
“I’m really confident where my body’s at heading into this year so it’s exciting.”
But that wasn’t the case after the grand final.
“Three to four weeks after the grannie, I started to jog a bit and it swelled up a little bit, so it was just telling me it probably wasn’t ready to get going again,” he said.
“The club’s been great with the recovery process. They’ve built me up nice and slowly and now, as I said, I’m ready to attack the season.”
Nick and Josh Daicos with parents Peter and Colleen and partners Arlette Amor and Annalise Dalins after the grand final. Credit: Getty Images
Daicos finished third in the Brownlow, trailing leader Lachie Neale by just three votes.
If he had featured in those final few games of the season, it’s entirely possible the medal could have been his.
But for now, Daicos and his teammates are all just focused on becoming the first Collingwood team to win back-to-back flags since the 1930s.
He said the entire midfield was also in great shape and there were a couple of well-known names that were certain to give opposition teams some grief — again — in 2024.
“It’s been great to watch (Jordan De Goey) come back in such great shape … I think he’s in for an absolutely massive year,” Daicos said.
“… And there’s young (player) called Scott Pendlebury, I don’t know if you know him, but he’s firing.”
He said there were host of other younger names to look out for, too.
“Finlay Macrae is so ready for his opportunity. Reef McInnes, Joey Richards, Harvey Harrison, Ed Allan, I could honestly go on and on and on,” he said.
“I think everyone’s come back running or lifting PBs in the gym so it’s super exciting for us heading into the year knowing that we’ve probably grown on last year (in terms of) our list depth.”
Daicos also revealed he had leadership ambitions in the future.
“Leadership is a quality that I hold in really high regard and we’ve got a number of great leaders at the club … so I’m very fortunate (to learn) so much from so many leaders at the club.
“(And we’ve had) arguably the greatest captain (of all time in) Scott Pendlebury lead us for a long time and I’m fortunate to have played alongside him and under him and I’ve learnt so much from him.
“If the opportunity does arise in the future with any leaderships position, hopefully I’ll be ready as I’ve been held in great stead with the leaders that we’ve got at the club.”