Sunday Territorian


Joint replacemen­t hope for veteran


ESSENDON veteran Michael Hurley has had a hip joint replaced in a bid to squeeze another year out of his 193-game career.

The popular Bomber, who turns 32 in June, lost more than 10kg this year and failed to play a game after battling a severe leg infection.

Hurley was bedridden for weeks and was hospitalis­ed twice as he struggled to shake the debilitati­ng bug - a condition that has resulted in people losing limbs.

The joint replacemen­t surgery three weeks ago was seen as his only hope of playing football at AFL level again.

“The operation basically gives him a chance,” Essendon general manager of football Josh Mahoney said. “Without the operation, he wouldn’t have been a chance.”

Hurley was back at the club last week and has begun his arduous rehabilita­tion program in the pool.

The Bombers would not put a time frame on his against-the-odds efforts to return to full-time training or senior football.

They said the two-time All-Australian was now “pain free” for the first time since the injury flared at the start of this year.

“Michael has been managing a degenerati­ve hip for many years and after the infection earlier this year it became quite symptomati­c with everyday life, not just playing football,” Mahoney said.

“It got to the stage where for him to give himself the best chance later in life, and also to give him the best chance to return to playing AFL, that was the best course of action.

“Recovery will be slow and Michael and the club’s main priority is his long-term hip health.

“Having said that, the goal is to restore normal hip function and, all going well, resume his AFL career.

“He is now walking around pain free, which he hasn’t experience­d for a long period of time.”

Joint replacemen­t surgery in the hip involves removing damaged or diseased sections of the body and replacing them with artificial parts.

It is more common in retired athletes and elder people.

Hurley, who is contracted for next year, played his last game in round 18, 2020 and he remains seven matches shy of his 200-game milestone.

The loyal defender stuck with the Bombers after being banned for the entire 2016 season as part of the Essendon 34 caught up in the club’s supplement saga.

Mahoney said it had been another hard year on Hurley.

“To see from when he first got the infection and the amount of weight that he lost and it was pretty tough for everyone to look at that stage,” Mahoney said.

He said it remained unclear how Hurley contracted the infection. “It’s hard to track,” he said. “There are different ways. It can be a cut. It can be a blister. He had some dental work done. It can be an operation.”

Mahoney said Hurley was already feeling better about his comeback efforts.

“It is going to be a slow recovery, but it will be based on the different stages he goes through,” Mahoney said.

“First of all, it is just about being mobile and working in the pool and walking and then gradually up to running.

“So it will just be a step-by-step process, working through that and then eventually he will start training (again).

“We will keep assessing it along the way.”

Aside from Hurley’s operation, the Bombers expect Harrison Jones (foot surgery) and Zach Reid (back stress fracture) to be the only other players facing a delayed start to the pre-season.

“The expectatio­n at this stage is we will have Harry Jones still recovering, slightly delayed and Zach Reid slightly delayed,” Mahoney said.

“But apart from those two and Hurls, everyone else will be in full training from the start, which is really pleasing.”

 ?? ?? Michael Hurley is keen to again play and lead out the Dons after missing the entire 2021 season. Pictures: Getty Images
Michael Hurley is keen to again play and lead out the Dons after missing the entire 2021 season. Pictures: Getty Images

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