Colyer's mind games over as big clash looms
Peter Ryan March 25, 2017 11:05 AM
OCCASIONALLY during the pre-season Essendon speedster Travis Colyer has let his mind wander to imagining how Saturday night's return to AFL football might feel.
Having not played since round 11, 2015, due to injury then suspension, the Bomber has spent the pre-season rebooting himself as an AFL footballer.
Ahead of the first JLT Community Series game on a Thursday night in mid-February, the wait between his final training session, which ended at midday Wednesday, and rocking up to the ground at 6pm the next night seemed to last an eternity.
After having spent 2016 filling any vacant space in order to stay busy it was a shock to the system.
Once he arrived at Etihad Stadium, his coach, John Worsfold was different and so were 15 of his teammates.
A new, abbreviated warm-up had been introduced during 2016, adding another dimension to the preparation.
The senses took time to adjust.
Wearing the same No.32 he had worn in 57 games before the Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down a season long ban to him and his teammates in January 2016 helped.
Many familiar faces remained in the rooms too, with Colyer noting the masseur's hands loosening his limbs for the task ahead in the same manner as before.
Before he knew it, he was accelerating around the ground with his familiar, quick steps.
"[The routine] comes back pretty quick," Colyer told AFL.com.au.
Saturday night's clash against Hawthorn at the MCG however is likely to be anything but routine for anyone who bleeds red and black.
As Colyer has in the past month, Bombers' supporters will rediscover the sights and smells that once surrounded their football club when they return to the MCG free of the drama that engulfed the team for the past four seasons.
The countdown many carried in their heads since CAS's decision last January will be over.
"It will be just that real excitement and happiness to be out there again," Colyer said.
"That feeling to run out with 21 other guys who I have worked hard over the pre-season with and ultimately to begin our journey moving forward is really exciting, not only for myself and the playing group, but the whole football club."
Colyer knows he belongs after cementing a spot in the line-up during the back half of 2014 and the first 11 games of 2015.
Before a navicular injury struck he played 22 consecutive matches, a patch of form that would help Colyer through his year in exile as it had confirmed to him, and others, he could belonged at the highest level.
"[It] probably made me a little bit comfortable knowing I was able to break in and play and have an impact," Colyer said.
But he quickly understood he would need to keep adapting, as he was thrown some new challenges in the pre-season.
Colyer headed into centre bounces 18 times in the JLT Community Series, having been there just four times since his first season 2010 (when he attended 27 centre bounces in 11 games), and is better for the experience.
"Just to have that exposure to see how those experienced midfielders move and play in a game as opposed to training, which is a little bit reduced in intensity, is something I will learn from," Colyer said.
"There is absolutely nothing like playing a game, and the learning and the experience you can get from that."
That sentence underlines what was lost in 2016 but Colyer is looking forward in more ways than one to 2017.
All of a sudden alongside him inside 50 in Essendon jumpers are a field of sprinters in Orazio Fantasia, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Josh Green.
Green's goal sense, McDonald-Tipungwuti instinctive positioning and Fantasia's combination of endurance and speed provides an eclectic mix and has fired Colyer's enthusiasm to play as a midfielder-forward.
What happens on opening night remains to be seen but Colyer says it's just the first step to fulfilling his ambition to play a whole season, having managed no more than 12 games a year between 2010-2015.
But he knows the nerves will kick in at some stage and can't wait for the adrenalin rush that comes with playing football in front of a big crowd to return.
"[I] have caught myself out thinking what is it going to be like to run out again," Colyer said.
"[I will] reflect and appreciate what the moment actually is [and] appreciate what it really means for me and the footy club."