The 10 AFL injuries that shaped the decade

SEN - Thu, 12th Dec 2019 - 0 Comments

Injuries are an inevitable part of sport and several have changed the course of history in the AFL this decade.

These injuries ended famous careers, cost club champions premiership opportunities and even led to rule changes.

Of course, these injuries aren’t ranked in any particular order – because that would be a little strange – but here’s 10 injuries that shaped the decade.

Bob Murphy’s knee (2016)

The Murphy ACL saga is one of the stories of the decade, period. Murphy suffered the significant knee injury in April of 2016 in the final minute of his side’s loss to Hawthorn.

Being 33 at the time, many feared it would be the end of his career, but Murphy pushed hard to return and had plenty of motivation to do so.

The Western Bulldogs would go on a dream run from seventh on the ladder to the premiership that year, with the ACL leading to their captain missing the game.

He would not miss out on the moment however with coach Luke Beveridge calling Murphy up to the stage, with the coach giving him his own medal.

The defender would return in 2017, playing 17 games before announcing his retirement.

Gary Ablett’s shoulder (2014)

The Suns had arrived. In front of the biggest crowd in Metricon Stadium history, they beat Collingwood in a thriller by five points and looked on track to make the finals for the first time ever.

The win over the Pies was a double-edged sword however, with captain Gary Ablett dislocating his shoulder in a tackle.

Ablett would sit out the remainder of the 2014 season, the Suns would lose their last four games, fall out of the top eight and finish 12th.

Not only did this injury potentially cost him a third Brownlow Medal, it remains the closest the Suns have ever been to September action.

Gary Rohan’s leg (2012)

Gary Rohan’s broken leg changed the rules – literally.

North Melbourne small forward Lindsay Thomas slid into Rohan legs first when contesting a ground ball, cleaning the Swan up and leading to one of the more gruesome injuries seen on an AFL field in recent years.

The Roo was hit with a two-game suspension for the slide and within a month, the AFL added the now controversial ‘sliding rule’, designed to protect players who have kept their feet at a contest.

The rule is one that is still active in the game to this day, bringing with it plenty of frustration from fans and players alike.

Paddy McCartin’s concussions

Paddy McCartin’s ongoing issues with concussions have been as eye opening as any injury this decade.

There were high expectations on the key forward given he was the number one pick in the 2014 National Draft.

However, his career has been completely derailed by the head-high hits, leading to his decision to sit out the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Concussion is an issue that has grown and developed over the decade and McCartin’s struggles and brave decisions will be important going into the next decade.

Erin Phillips’ knee (2019)

Erin Phillips was that far the best player in the 2019 AFLW season that she swept every major award … for the second time in three years.

That included the best on ground medal in the Grand Final, a bittersweet moment after she tore her ACL late in the game.

The Grand Final win over Carlton was shaping up as the crowning moment for Phillips, but a cruel twist of fate changed that.

She was carted from the field to a standing ovation in front of a sold out Adelaide Oval.

Phillips hopes to return for the 2020 AFLW season, but her status remains up in the air.

Chris Judd’s knee (2015)

The career of a dual Brownlow Medallist and premiership captain ended instantaneously in 2015.

Chris Judd tore his ACL in the first quarter of a match against Adelaide – and that was that.

Judd seemingly knew immediately what had happened and what it meant, acknowledging the standing ovation from the crowd as he was carted off.

Dane Swan’s foot (2016)

In his own words, Dane Swan was scared he would “smash his foot into a thousand pieces” if he tried to kick a footy following his career-ending injury in 2016.

Swan retired after 258 games and a Brownlow Medal after breaking three bones in his foot.

It’s another tough reality of sport, with the star accumulator going down in the opening quarter of the opening game of the season.

Nic Naitanui’s knees (2016 and 2018)

Another injury in the dying moments of a game, Nic Naitanui’s 2016 ACL tear was heartbreaking, with the star ruckman suffering the injury towards the end of the season.

This not only ruled him out of the finals, but he also ended up missing the entire 2017 season.

The Eagle returned in 2018 and played 15 games before re-injuring the knee against the Magpies and tearing the ACL once more.

This run of injuries robbed one of the game’s brightest stars of essentially three seasons, with Naitanui able to return late in the 2019 season. Fingers are crossed we see the best of him again in 2020.

Michael Barlow’s leg (2010)

Michael Barlow was a revelation in 2010. The mature age recruit for the Dockers was having an incredible rookie season and changing the way recruiters look at players.

He accumulated 337 disposals in his first 12 games, the most by any first-year player at the time and was a big part of Fremantle’s midfield until an horrific broken leg ended his season.

Barlow returned halfway through the 2011 season and would go on to play 141 games for the Dockers and Suns.

Daniel Menzel’s knees (2011-2015)

Daniel Menzel tore his ACL four times before even turning 22 years old.

One of the brightest young talents in the game, Menzel’s 2011 season had everyone excited about what the future held.

He wouldn’t play another game until Round 22, 2015.

Menzel’s entire career was flipped on its head as he suffered from knee injury after knee injury.

The forward found some consistently across 2016, 2017 and 2018 before being delisted by the Cats and signed by Sydney for 2019.