There were a few nerves for Lin Jong leading into Sunday night’s clash with St Kilda.
Even he didn’t realise how long it had been between AFL games.
The 27-year-old had last pulled on the red, white and blue in round 22, 2018 – an interruption caused largely by injuries.
The tough midfielder finished with 17 disposals in an impressive individual return, despite the Dogs’ disappointing loss to the Saints.
“I didn’t realise I hadn’t played for that long,” Jong said post-game.
“It was a special sort of game to me, having come back for a while and especially after last year with the injuries and taking time off.
“I was really nervous coming into the game
“But it was really good to play with the boys – obviously not a great result, but the enjoyment and passion is there which I’m really happy about.”
Just as Jong looked set to have a full pre-season behind him in 2020, injury struck again.
A serious hamstring injury looked set to sideline him for the first two to three months of the season, before the season was put on hold due to COVID-19.
“I was going to miss the first eight to 12 rounds and I’ve ended up missing one round, so I was probably one of the lucky ones that benefitted from the break,” Jong said.
“I don’t want to say the break was good because everyone struggled. But that was a little silver lining for me.”
After taking time off for mental health reasons towards the end of 2019, Jong says he has recaptured his love of the game.
“That time I took off I really got to prioritise my mental health and take time away from the club and playing football, which sometimes can heighten symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Jong said.
“Finding my love for the game and playing to have fun – I know it sounds a bit corny, but not putting that pressure on yourself and not thinking you’re less of a person because you might play a bad game of football.”