Richmond skipper opens up on overcoming injury woes, GF heartbreak to become AFLW star

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Richmond AFLW captain Katie Brennan has opened up on the impact a series of ankle injuries had on her physical and mental wellbeing, in the fledgling competition’s first years.

Speaking to nib Health, the 29-year old discussed how her early injury struggles have given her a greater understanding of what her body needs to thrive in an elite sporting environment, and the importance of balancing footy and time away from the field.

Brennan was named as the Western Bulldogs’ inaugural AFLW captain at the start of 2017, but suffered a serious ankle injury just a week before the club’s first ever game.

While she would battle through the opener and the early rounds with the injury, she would re-aggravate the knock and miss three weeks, before her season ended prematurely after tearing a quad while attempting to prove her fitness to return.

She would once again deal with ankle injuries through the second season, before heartbreakingly being suspended for the Bulldogs’ grand final berth – and premiership win – due to a tackle on Melbourne’s Harriet Cordner in the final match of the home-and-away season.

Looking back on the series of unfortunate events, Brennan paid tribute to her friends and family for getting her through a tough period.

“It was a pretty tough time; I didn’t know that I’d be missing the rest of the season,” she said of the injury.

“In the second year of AFL Women’s, I did my same ankle again, the same spot. You have ups and downs, you have challenging moments, you have times where you think it’s never going to be the same, but you just get through.

“You rely on the people around you, whether that’s your support network or those health professionals to just steer you in the right direction and help with different parts of your recovery.

“I was really fortunate to have so many amazing people around me to really help me through that time.

“I also learned a lot from it, and feel really grateful for the experience and the growth, and just how it has changed me as a person and helped my game as well.”

Brennan also discussed the new outlook her injury battles gave her towards preparation, saying ‘listening to my body’ is now her number one priority.

If that means taking time away from the usually rigorous preparation required to play AFLW football, then so be it.

“Along my journey, I have had a few injuries, and I think the thing that I have had to prioritise is just listening to my body and looking after my body,” she said.

“Physically, whether it’s in the gym or doing your injury prevention, but also having that down time away from footy and making sure that you’re switching your mind off.

“Health to me means making positive and healthy choices, it means being connected to your friends and your family and your community, and it means going after things that you want in life and just living a healthy and positive life.”

For Brennan, she describes her ideal work-life balance as spending 80 per cent of her time dedicated to her craft – whether that’s training, preparation or simpler things like eating healthy foods – and the other 20 per cent devoted to her off-field interests and hobbies.

Having established herself as an AFLW star with the Tigers, which has included being named in the AFLW All-Australian team in each of the past two seasons, it’s fair to say her technique has paid dividends.

“If you can make majority good choices, the 80 per cent, and still have fun in the 20 per cent, I think that that really helps to set you up to have a healthy and active life,” Brennan said.

“We have done that from a young age, and I’ve just tried to continue that on into adulthood.

“As an athlete, you try and tick all the boxes, but having those people around you to support you and to help with the balance of doing everything you can to get your body right, but also having some down time off the field and being involved in other endeavours that aren’t your athlete life – those people were super important along the journey.”

You can check out Katie Brennan’s full story here.

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