INJURED Adelaide ruckman Rhett Biglands’ career officially came to an end when announced his retirement on Monday but, in hindsight, one could say it was over almost two years earlier.
Biglands, 30, snapped the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2006 preliminary final loss to West Coast and immediately embarked on the customary 12-month rehabilitation process with the aim of being ready should the Crows make finals the following season.
But, as Biglands revealed on Monday, his recovery was under a cloud from the very beginning and, in February this year, he underwent a second knee reconstruction.
“The initial graft just didn’t heal - it wasn’t one particular day in February [where my knee went],” Biglands said.
“We had a bit of an incident at the six-week mark after the first operation where I had a bit of a fall and the medical staff thinks there might have been a lot of damage done then.
“I built it up for 12 months after that, but it probably was never really healed."
The likeable veteran once again ventured down the path of rehabilitation, but given the state of his body and the increasing physical demands on professional footballers, he knew his AFL career was almost certainly over.
“I’ve sort of known, in consultation with others, that the second reconstruction was always going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.
“The last two years have probably been the most difficult of my life, but in saying that, I’ve had 10 years on an AFL list, so I’m very thankful for having the opportunity to be involved with the best game in the world.
“You’ve got to look after your body [especially] with the way it’s been hammered over the years and you’ve got to make sure that your lifestyle after footy is good enough to do what you want to do.”
Biglands, who was picked up by the Crows in 1999 after being delisted by Port Adelaide, agreed it had been a disappointingly sudden end his career.
“Your career does come to a head pretty quickly. I remember when I first met [inaugural Port Adelaide coach] Jack Cahill. I was sitting in his office and reading an article on an older player who said ‘your career goes by in a flash’,” Biglands said with a smile.
“I shook my head and thought my career was going to go forever, but we can’t all be Robert Harveys or Simon Goodwins and play until we’re 40.”
Biglands finishes his career on 134 games - the same number as former club champion Shaun Rehn, whose time in football was also cut short my multiple knee operations.
The South Australian native, who was thought to have carried Adelaide’s ruck hopes this season, leaves a club in good shape.
Young talls Ivan Maric, Kurt Tippett, Brad Moran and Jon Griffin have all made strong impacts on the competition in their short careers and Biglands said it was “gratifying” to walk away now.
“You do think that this year we’re going to be around the mark,” he said.
“And next year, they’ll be knocking on the door again, so it gives you a lot of confidence knowing how strong the club is, that they’re going to be there and [to think that] hopefully you’ve had an input to the people coming through.”
Biglands, originally recruited from Woodville-West Torrens, hasn’t ruled out a SANFL return. He might be vacating his playing locker at West Lakes, but his future at the Crows seems secure in another department.
During his extended stay on the sidelines Biglands took up a commercial operations role with the club, a position that he’s likely to continue.
For now, he's looking forward to some time away from football and training.
“I just want to get away from Charlie Walsh (Crows fitness guru and former national cycling coach) - he’s killing me at the moment. I’m doing two-hour ergo (ergonomic bike) sessions twice a week and he’s told me every Olympic story there is,” Biglands said, with a laugh.
“I can’t handle it anymore. He almost broke me in half. For those who know Charlie and the ergo sessions we do, they’re right up there, they test you mentally more than anything, so I’m looking forward to a bit of a break.”