After missing the first half of the year through injury, Western Bulldogs young gun Ed Richards looks to be quickly making up for lost time.
It took just one game at VFL level for the 21-year-old to prove he’d fully recovered from a fractured fibula, sustained the week of round one in a VFL practice match.
And he was thrown straight into the fire after that, in a pivotal clash against the West Coast Eagles in Perth.
Richards slotted in seamlessly across half back, a position where he has played some of his best football as a Bulldog.
“Coming back after 13 weeks with the injury through the VFL against Geelong and having a solid game there, I felt confident coming in and being able to play my role against West Coast,” he said this week.
“It’s been nice to settle back in (in defence)… it’s where I’m most confident.
“I’d been playing there in the practice matches and training there and felt pretty confident once I blew the cobwebs with the running and fitness against Geelong.”
Prior to 2021, the speedster had barely missed a game from his draft day.
Richards had featured in 58 of a possible 62 AFL games since making his debut in round two, 2018.
“I’d been pretty blessed with injuries over my first couple of years,” he said.
“I’ve never had as long a layoff and never really broken a bone.
“It was a different experience, but I just tried to remain positive and do my rehab which helped me get back into the AFL side as quick as I did.
“You never want to have a long layoff, but because I knew I was going to be out for a long period of time I was able to relax and make sure I came back fresh in the legs and mind as well.”
After missing such a large chunk of football, Richards has his sights set on contributing however he can in the back half of the season.
“Those goals you set yourself to improve different parts of your game don’t really change. It’s about staying focused on those things that help you become a better footballer,” he said.
“The group’s been unbelievable, only dropping a couple of games.
“It made it quite easy to come in and slot into a successful side. We were really organised and working as a unit, which makes it easier to play well and win games.”