Winning the Pascoe Cup on Sunday would be the highest of highs for Henwood Park midfielder Chris Oczkowski, and it would follow the lowest of lows.
Oczkowski, 21, had his 2016 campaign cut short just three games into the season after suffering an ankle injury he described as “excruciating”.
After leaping into the air to contest a high ball, the former Henwood junior landed in a horrifically awkward fashion, completely tearing three ligaments in his ankle.
“The pain was unbearable,” Oczkowski said.
“As soon as I landed I felt a crack and I couldn’t even move.”
Oczkowski was put through an agonising wait to discover the precise nature of the damage, and the concerned look on his physiotherapist’s face did not do much to ease his anxiety.
Once his ligament damage had been revealed, the midfielder went under the knife and had two screws inserted into his ankle, before being put through a gruelling rehabilitation program.
Getting back onto the pitch was a tumultuous journey which came with plenty of down days.
“Even kicking the ball again was pretty painful,” he said.
Oczkowski now plans to use the frustrating ordeal as fuel ahead of Sunday’s grand final showdown with Lake Albert, adding that winning a premiership would be even sweeter after his lengthy struggle just to get back to walking pain-free, let alone playing soccer.
“Having worked really hard to get the ankle back to full-strength, I think winning the final would be a testament to the theory of mind over matter,” he said.
“I want to give it a good shot and show that last season was just a one-off odd experience and nothing more.”
Oczkowski said his desire to pay back his teammates and coaches for having faith in him only added to his motivation to win the premiership for his childhood club.
“It’s just such a good club and everyone really supports each other,” he said.
“So by doing well this season and making the final, I like to think that has redeemed the faith the club has had in me.”