Max Warren Player Feature

It’s a standard Tuesday night at Box Hill City Oval.

The playing group has filtered through the door and made their way onto the track. A bin full of footies sits on the half-forward flank next to the players’ race and, slowly but surely, is emptied as a steadily swelling group pits themselves against one another in shots from the pocket.

Snaps, dribbles, inside-out torps, checksides and mongrel punts. It’s a game of constant one-upmanship. No score is kept per se and there is no ‘winner’ in the traditional sense, but someone has to collect those Sherrins.

A 40-50 metre jog to return enough footies for the next round tells you all you need to know about how you’ve gone.

Before long, Senior Coach Chris Newman and his assistants round up the group and take them upstairs for a review of the weekend’s match, with an eye towards the Club’s next engagement that coming Saturday.

It’s instructive and educational, as Newman outlines the good and the bad from the week just past and the plan for the session ahead and the opponent just days away.

The gym downstairs, which just fifteen minutes earlier was abuzz, is empty but for one man, who after completing some pre-training preparations emerges onto the track.

From the window upstairs his teammates can see him making his way around the ground, running intervals up and down the wing.

Max Warren’s third season at City Oval has easily been his most challenging. It’s already early July and the Club Vice-Captain and reigning best and fairest’s year is yet to begin, with swelling in his right knee consigning him to a rehab program for the better part of 8-months.

“the current timeline (for a return) is very loose at the moment.

“Returning from this injury has always been about getting it right – and not just so I can play football in 2018, but for the next five years and beyond.”

Warren battled the knee complaint during the back end of last season, managing it well enough to play a leading hand in what was a terrific campaign for the Club.

When he returned for pre-season training in November of 2017 he was effectively managing two serious injuries: the swelling in his knee and a break to his leg sustained in the final moments of the Hawks’ preliminary final loss to Richmond.

Despite that, it was hoped he’d figure in full sessions come the New Year. He was certainly working hard enough to make that a reality.

“I managed to get on the park early in pre-season, around December, but the knee simply didn’t handle the work load and we had to really pull back.”

“During those games late last year it wasn’t bothering me a whole lot, but over the summer it began to feel worse and worse, which has kept me from retuning to the main group.

But despite the setbacks and uncertainty Warren remains unperturbed and, importantly, undefeated.

Even though he’s spent the majority of his recovery isolated from the group – whether it be during sessions at City Oval or solo trips to Hawthorn’s Waverley base – Box Hill’s number five is aware that maintaining a positive attitude is vital at times like this.

“Injuries happen when you play a physical, contact sport, so it’s just about overcoming that and moving forward.

“I’m generally a pretty motivated individual when it comes to training and, as such, spending so much of my program away from the guys hasn’t felt like as much of a burden as it might’ve.

“Sometimes you don’t have the same drive to push yourself as you do when in a group of twenty or thirty teammates.

“But if you’re creative you can find it through things like music or challenging yourself to hit certain goals and benchmarks.”

As frustrating as it is to be running laps and be in the gym as your teammates are hard at work preparing for the weekend, its when Saturday comes that the ache really sets in.

Ask any footballer what they hate missing most and it’s unlikely they’ll offer, “training. What I miss most is training.”

For Warren, a senior player and leader, its being a part of the chaos that takes place over that white line.

“Celebrating with my teammates is the thing I miss most.

“The hardest part is when the team has lost or is losing a game. You feel helpless.

“If things are going well on field, as they were early in the season, you don’t feel as though your absence is having a big impact; but during some recent close losses its the hardest its ever been.

“There’s the common question, ‘when are you back?’”

“It gets thrown around a fair bit and without a timeline it’s always a relatively hollow answer, unfortunately.

As his training begins to ramp up, bringing with it the promise of a long awaited, long overdue return, Max can just about see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“The moment when I can return to and run out onto Box Hill City Oval with no concerns is the thing I’m most looking forward to.”

Us too, Max.

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