Apart from some stiffness and a “jammy” feeling when he is in a deep squat, Ward has no discomfort in his knee. And while some ACL victims struggle with mental demons after they recover physically, Ward exorcised his during pre-season.
“It was in the back of my mind when I started doing change of direction again four to five months ago but you get to a stage where you forget about it,” Ward said.
“When I go out and train, I don’t even think about my knee any more. When I first started doing change of direction I was thinking, ‘This went on me last time I did this’. It was in the back of your mind but the more you do and harder you go, the more confidence you get.
“I feel really good on it. I don’t feel any pain, I don’t feel any difference between both knees when I do acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, jumping, everything, long-distance running.
“I feel ready to play, definitely ready to play. Getting the contact stuff will be important to me but I’m really confident I can do that really well. I’m ready to go, it’s just getting Leon [Cameron, Giants coach] to pick me now.”
Cameron has indicated Ward will play next round, saying he saw no reason to hold him back.
A lack of match practice would normally be an issue but, with the NEAFL not in action and simulated match play difficult due to social distancing, options are limited. The problem is mitigated by the rest of the competition not having played since March.
Former greats Matthew Lloyd and Dermott Brereton have cast doubt on the validity of this season, which has been shortened to 17 games. The West Australian and South Australian clubs have also been forced to “host” games away from their home states. Ward has a different view.
He believes the difficulties brought about by COVID-19 add merit to a premiership rather than cheapening it. The Giants are among the favourites to claim this year’s flag.
“It’s going to be harder to win than any other year,” Ward said. “If the asterisk means you really deserve it, then put the asterisk there.
“When you’ve got these restrictions, you can’t train as a full group, you can’t even go over your game plan because you need your full group together.
“It’s a huge test for any player and any football club. I’ve got no doubt whoever wins the premiership this year definitely deserves it. It will be a great one to win.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald