By Shaun Giles
Will Setterfield emerges from his morning rehab session clutching a small, green plastic bag filled with ice.
He sits down and applies it to his left knee but there’s no reason to be concerned — it’s just one part of his meticulous recovery process.
Some parts are simplistic, others are more scientific.
“I had my mind set on playing and now I have to wait another year, that’s probably the most challenging thing,” Setterfield said.
The 20-year-old has had a luckless start to his AFL career.
Taken by GWS at number five in the 2016 draft, he has managed only two senior games for the club after an ankle injury derailed his first season.
In February 2018, he sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Giants’ first practice game of the year against the Sydney Swans.
Will Setterfield ruptured his ACL in a practice match against the Sydney Swans in February. (Supplied: Giants Media)
An innocuous contest for the ball ended in disaster when Setterfield was tackled and his left knee buckled under the weight of his opponent.
“It was a pretty loud pop,” he said.
“The pain wasn’t really that bad but I was pretty shocked at the time.”
Shock soon turned to frustration, disappointment and anger as he realised this would be another long-term setback.
“Once I got in the rooms I was pretty emotional,” he said.
“Going into pre-season I didn’t miss a session, I was pretty excited for this year and, bang, something happens again.
“It’s probably more frustrating now than it was last year but I still have to make the most of it.”
Within a week of the injury, Setterfield underwent scans, flew to Melbourne to meet with the surgeon and 24 hours after that consultation, was in surgery.
“The good thing was that there was no other structural damage, so I got pretty lucky looking at the other side of it,” he said.
Will Setterfield’s family has been supporting him after the latest injury setback. (Supplied: Giants Media)
From the very start, the lad from Albury, located on the northern side of Murray River in NSW, has kept a positive outlook.
“I stayed at my uncle’s house for two weeks in Melbourne with my cousin who had surgery two weeks before me with the same injury,” he said.
Western Bulldogs player Isabel Huntington, the cousin of Will Setterfield, has the same injury at a similar time. (Supplied: Twitter)
“It’s good to have someone to talk about it who’s going through the same thing.”
That cousin just happens to be Isabel Huntington who plays for the Western Bulldogs in the AFLW.
Family has played a pivotal role in the early stages of his recovery, right down to help with the domestic chores.
“I was slack, especially straight after the surgery, so it was nice to have mum up [from Albury],” he said.
“But I’m starting to get into a routine now.”
Since the injury, Setterfield comes to the club three days a week where it is all about routine.
Physically, it is a slow process.
“Going up and down stairs, I’m not very good at that,” Setterfield said.
“But right now, it feels really good. You almost get it in your head that you’ll be running soon even though you can’t.
“I’ll probably be ready in around 12 weeks to run but I’m probably not going to run until closer to 16 because I just want to get it really strong.”
For now, full weights are restricted to upper body training only — he has a legitimate excuse to be on the “beach weights” program.
After his surgery, Setterfield’s immediate focus was on straightening his leg and building up to those first steps.
“There wasn’t a lot of exercises that I could do,” he said.
“Once I came back [to Sydney] I was walking without crutches.
“I could almost walk after 10 days but I took an extra few days.”
Long journey back to the top
The promising GWS Giant is determined to get back on the playing field for 2019. (Supplied: Giants Media)
Since then Setterfield has started a closely monitored program which includes weights tailored for rehab.
Beyond the physical, the club provides a full range of support to the highly-regarded midfielder.
Welfare officers ensure he is mentally dealing with this setback, medical staff map each stage of his recovery and dieticians ensure his diet is catered to his current needs.
The club feel it is in their best interest to get the young player back on the ground as quickly and safely as possible.
The Giants have had their eye on him since he was 13 when he was signed-up to the club’s academy.
Just as the newest NSW AFL club showed interest in him at an early age, Setterfield knew early on that football was the chosen sport for him.
“Growing up as a country kid you always play a range of sports but footy was always the main one,” he said.
For now, Setterfield is applying himself to his rehab like he would a match. He is also looking forward to the next stage involving more hydrotherapy as he follows a holistic recovery path.
“Just to do something different other than walking around in the gym would be nice,” he said.
“I’m just trying to improve the other parts of my life… and keep myself busy and keep my mind ticking along.”
Now, two months has ticked along as the promising young footballer continues his quest to be back playing in the AFL in 2019.