Greater Western Sydney forward Jon Patton will return to AFL action this weekend, fighting his way back to fitness after spending almost a year on the sidelines with two separate knee injuries.
Patton has been selected for Sunday’s clash with Essendon at Spotless Stadium as coach Leon Cameron hopes to drive his team towards a first-ever finals berth.
“It’s exciting, I got the call last night from Leon that they picked me, so this is the first week I put my hand up to play,” said Patton.
“Fortunately enough they picked me.”
The No.1 draft pick from 2011 underwent his second right knee reconstruction in three years last August and didn’t return to full training until April.
He has since played four games for the GWS reserve side, kicking 16 goals and impressing with his sharpness in the forward line.
After deliberately holding himself back from his first-team return, the 22-year-old said he was prepared for the physical demands of AFL and confident enough to get into one-on-one contests and tackles.
“I didn’t want to come back and be underdone and not be able to perform well,” he said.
“The guys have been really good all year, I’ve been watching every game and been wishing I was out there every game, so now I’m back out there and hopefully I can help the team win.”
Giants coach Leon Cameron said Patton had picked himself with his positive attitude and solid form in the reserves.
“In terms of ticking boxes for his contested marking, agility, his ability to run out games, that’s ticked off and we feel as though he’s ready to go,” he said.
“We’ve looked at it all and we’re really rapt that he’s come back and he’s worked really hard in his rehab.”
Cameron said he expected Patton to take the load off his forward line, in particular the goal-shy Jeremy Cameron, but warned against expecting too much too soon from him at the more intense first-grade level.
“You know, we can’t expect really big things straight away,” he said.
“I think all players that come back from year-out injuries, sometimes they can come on and go, `bang’ straight away and it can happen straight away, but other times it takes two, three, four weeks to get into rhythm.”