Richmond skipper opens up on overcoming injury woes, GF heartbreak to become AFLW star

Richmond AFLW captain Katie Brennan has spoken about the impact a series of ankle injuries had on her physical and mental well-being in the early years of the fledgling competition.

Speaking to nib Health, the 29-year-old opened up about how her early injury struggles have given her a better understanding of what her body needs to thrive in an elite sporting environment, and the importance of football and time off the field to reconcile.

Brennan was named the Western Bulldogs’ first-ever AFLW captain in early 2017, but suffered a serious ankle injury just a week before the club’s first-ever game.

As she struggled through the opener and early rounds with the injury, she aggravated the pounding again, missing three weeks before her season ended early after tearing a quad while trying to prove her fitness for the return .

She again had to deal with ankle injuries in her second season before being heartbreakingly suspended for the Bulldogs’ big last place – and Premier League win – after a tackle on Melbourne’s Harriet Cfalter in the final game of the first and second leg.

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Looking back on the series of unfortunate events, Brennan paid tribute to her friends and family for getting her through a difficult time.

“It was a pretty tough time; I didn’t know I was going to miss the rest of the season,” she said of the injury.

“In my sophomore year at AFL Women’s, I treated the same ankle again, same spot. You have ups and downs, you have challenging moments, you have times when you think it will never be the same again, but you just get through it.

“You rely on the people around you, whether it’s your support network or these healthcare professionals, to just steer you in the right direction and help you with different parts of your recovery.

“I’ve been really lucky to have so many amazing people around me who really helped me through this time.

“I learned a lot from it too and am really grateful for the experience and growth and how it has changed me as a person and also helped my game.”

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Brennan also spoke about the new perspective her injury struggles gave her in terms of preparation, saying that “listening to my body” is now her top priority.

If that means taking time away from the typically rigorous preparation required to play AFLW football, then so be it.

“I’ve had a few injuries on my journey, and I think what I had to prioritize is just listen to my body and pay attention to my body,” she said.

“Physically, whether it’s in the gym or injury prevention, but also when you’re having that time off from football and making sure you turn your mind off.

“To me, health means making positive and healthy choices, it means being connected to your friends, family and community, and it means pursuing the things you want in life and just being healthy and positive to lead life.”

For Brennan, she describes her ideal work-life balance as devoting 80 percent of her time to her craft — be it training, preparation, or simpler things like healthy eating — and dedicating the other 20 percent to her off-field interests and hobbies.

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Having established herself as an AFLW star with the Tigers and being named to the AFLW All-Australian team for the past two seasons, it’s fair to say her technique has paid off.

“If you can make mostly good decisions, which is 80 percent, and still have fun with the 20 percent, I think that really helps in living a healthy and active life,” Brennan said.

“We’ve been doing this since we were little, and I’ve just tried to continue that into adulthood.

“As an athlete you try to tick all the boxes but have these people around you who support you and help you do whatever you can to get your body right but also some time off the field too and being involved in other endeavors that are not your sporting life – those people were super important on the journey.”

You can read Katie Brennan’s full story here.

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