Having missed so much football and endured so much heartbreak due to injury, Geelong ruckman Hamish McIntosh plans to cherish every game and every win from now until the end of his AFL career.
The 38-point victory over Adelaide on Thursday night was McIntosh’s first at AFL level in almost two years – and his first for the Cats since crossing from North Melbourne at the end of the 2012 campaign.
A string of injuries made 2013 a write-off and had the talented ruckman and his new coach Chris Scott wondering whether he would ever play a senior game for Geelong.
Which went a long way to explaining the emotions McIntosh felt after the match, which coincided with Brownlow Medallist Jimmy Bartel’s 250th game in the blue and white hoops.
“There were times last year when I didn’t think I’d be able to get back,” said the 29-year-old McIntosh, who announced himself with a crowd-pleasing goal in the first quarter.
“I went home and sometimes after training I was really sore and I thought my body maybe can’t handle the load of AFL footy.
“Naturally when you’re injured so long you think those thoughts.
“But you talk to people and they tell you to stay positive, to stay mentally strong.
“And I did that, pushed through it and did all the little exercises you have to do now the older you get.
“All the hard work is worth it to experience playing AFL footy and play with super guys like (captain Joel Selwood) and Jimmy in such a big game.
“You wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Scott said McIntosh “became a Geelong player tonight”.
“He’s had to fight hard to earn the respect of his teammates,” he said.
“You can be a fantastic trainer and a great bike rider, but unless you get the opportunity to do it out there on the track and in games, it’s very difficult to earn that respect.”
McIntosh was the feel-good story as the Cats won 18.11 (119) to 12.9 (81), kicking the last six goals after Patrick Dangerfield had put the Crows ahead briefly with the first major of the final term.
Triple premiership heroes Selwood and Steve Johnson ran rampant in the final quarter, while Brownlow medallist Bartel kicked a game-high four goals in his new role as a free-ranging forward.
“Jimmy has had a lot of time to think about it and we’re one game in so we’re not patting ourselves on the back, but he’s a pretty handy player in the forward 50,” said Scott.
“He marks the ball like a key position player and he’s as good at ground level as any of our players.
“But we’re not saying anything new are we? He’s done it 250 times at AFL level.”