By Ant Wingard
A mid-year shoulder injury threatened to derail the draft hopes of Yeronga South Brisbane midfielder Dee Heslop but the Gold Coast SUNS Academy member is adamant of returning fitter than ever as she prepares for the NAB AFLW Draft Combine next week.
Heslop sustained the injury during an innocuous tackling drill just weeks before Queensland’s NAB AFLW Under 18 National Championship opener against West Australia in June and was forced to carry the injury throughout the remainder of the football calendar.
At one point, Heslop and her team were hopeful of putting off surgery until next year.
But after consulting a specialist and undergoing an MRI scah in preparation for the combine, Heslop’s draft hopes were suddenly dashed as she was forced to undergo surgery.
“My first thought was that I was ruled out for the draft and that no one would want me,” Heslop told aflq.com.au.
Now, four weeks post-operation, Heslop is on the mend and will be one of nine Queenslanders making the trip to Melbourne to participate in the draft combine ahead of the AFL Women’s Draft on October 22.
The surgery has meant Heslop is unable to participate in any of the physical assessment drills but the Broadbeach junior still hoping to take plenty out of the experience.
“Obviously it’s still pretty exciting even though I won’t be able to do the fitness side of it,” she said.
“It’ll be good to sit back on the sidelines and watch them all test to see what I need to get up to and where the best girl at each component is at.
“Otherwise, it’ll be a good learning experience of just being able to stay positive because obviously it does suck being on the sidelines and I’m going to be on there for a while.”
Despite her setback in potentially the most crucial part of her football career, Heslop is still hopeful to be selected in the upcoming draft.
Her timeline post-injury is also looking positive.
Heslop will commence her rehab when she returns from the combine where she will be able to start running and build toward a potential debut in the 2020 AFL Women’s season.
And while her absence will be missed both on the training track and throughout the testing at the combine, Heslop is adamant the setback will only benefit her in the long run.
“The injury is going to help me most physically and mentally because once I’ve finished my rehab, I’ll be the fittest and strongest that I have ever been.”
“My fingers are still crossed but I think it’ll only be when the name is read out that you really know if it is happening.”
Heslop will join a host of Queensland names at the three-day combine in Melbourne next week as the draft looms closer.
Joining her will be Georgia Brehmer (Bond University), Georgia Breward (Coolangatta Tweed), Isabel Dawes, Lily Postlethwaite (both Maroochydore, Tahlia Hickie, Hannah Hillman, Tarni White (all Coorparoo) and Serene Watson (Bond University).
The NAB AFLW Draft Combine will take place next week from Tuesday October 1 until Thursday October 3.
Queensland NAB AFL Women’s Draft Combine Nominees
Georgia Brehmer (Bond University)
Geogia Breward (Coolangatta Tweed)
Isabel Dawes (Maroochydore)
Dee Heslop (Yeronga South Brisbane)
Tahlia Hickie (Coorparoo)
Lily Posltethwaite (Maroochydore)
Serene Watson (Bond University)
Hannah Hillman (Coorparoo)
Tarni White (Coorparoo)
Image: Chris Hyde/AFL Photos