For those who want to be scared about syndesmosis injuries…
Shortly after coming from North Ballarat to Essendon, an ACL rupture in December 2016 ruled the 22-year-old out of VFL action for the following season.
Having completed his rehabilitation, Hooper returned to training and set his sights on making his debut for the Bombers in 2018, but he suffered another blow when he injured the syndesmosis joint in his left ankle during a pre-season practice match against Noble Park.
While the roles of being in the 2018 leadership group – “staying involved and keeping an interest in what’s going on in not only what the VFL group is doing but how the boys are going locally” – have not been compromised for Hooper, he says that the challenge of meeting his own standards has been with him every step of the way.
“As soon as you miss a week or you drop your bundle for a couple of sessions, you fall behind,” Hooper said about his rehabilitation.
“It was about keeping on top of that, making sure that I was doing the right things. That falls into leadership and setting the example.”
Apart from physiotherapist Brady Green – who Hooper says “really opened my eyes” to the rights and wrongs in recovery – the promising key-position player says that being around fellow Bombers who had endured the long and lonely hours, days, weeks and months of rehab has helped support him.
“You bounce off all the other boys that have had similar issues. We can relate to each other and where we’re at in different parts of the year and parts of the rehab.
“I’ve spent enough time in rehab over the years to know that you can’t beat playing, full stop. Rehab can be a dark place at times and it can get a bit monotonous and boring.
“It’s one of those things that you take for granted when you are playing; you’re out there running around with your mates, enjoying it, enjoying that competitive spirit … you miss all that.”
After nearly two years on the sidelines, Hooper made his return to football three weeks ago playing for local club Keilor and says his touch is returning game by game.
“I wasn’t overly nervous before playing but there was probably a bit of nervous energy once I got out there.
“I’d done three weeks full training going into it, so I was confident in my body. It had been two years since I’d played so it was more being worried if I’d get a kick or not.”
With the Bombers preparing for the final six rounds of the home and away season, Hooper is not taking anything for granted when talk turns to making a VFL berth.
“For a start it was more just get some games under my belt, get back to playing footy, get used to knocks and get a bit of match fitness.
“I’m feeling better each game and I’m starting to string some good footy together in my last two games. I’m building slowly, which is good and hopefully I’ll continue on that path as the next few rounds go by and we’ll play it from there.”
By Callum O’Connor