Mimi Hill collects one of her 26 disposals in her return game last Sunday. Image: @mimihill/ Instagram

336 days after she went down with an ACL injury, Mimi Hill was back out on the field starring playing the game she loves. She detailed the ups and downs on long journey back to the playing field

11 months, 48 weeks, 336 days in the making. Mimi Hill was tired of being held back.

It was a long wait for Mimi Hill to get back to the place where she wanted to be. Back out on Ikon Park chasing the football around the park with her best mates.

While the result ultimately didn’t fall Hill’s way, with the Blues going down by 39 points to a stirring Adelaide side, the return, despite a little scare for her family and friends and all watching at the end, couldn’t have gone any better.

She collected 26 disposals, 13 contested possessions, eight intercepts,  five marks, and four tackles on return from an ACL injury, showing off her customary dash and breakaway speed through the midfield and on the wing. The return was capped off days later when the 19-year-old was awarded with the NAB Rising Star nomination for Round five.

“It was really exciting,” Hill told The Inner Sanctum. ” I felt really normal playing footy again, which was great.”

Hill was always determined to push for a round one return, a decision that was taken out of her hands by medical staff. Had it not been for about of COVID-19, which delayed the return to full training by a couple of weeks coming towards the end of rehab, it could have come even earlier.

Despite the quick recovery, Hill recalled the hard moments of the long recovery. Having sustained the injury late in the season and living through the depths of several Melbourne lockdowns, Hill said there were some lonely moments on the road to recovery.

But there were chances and avenues for her to escape the “footy focus” and keep the mind ticking over.

“The first part of rehab that’s pretty hard,” she said.

“Doing all your rehab away from the club.  I had access to the club, but no one else is around so it’s pretty lonely [being there alone].

“I didn’t have uni at that time to like, focus on, crazily enough who actually allowed on campus for a little while but I couldn’t go because I just had surgery. So I had to defer for a semester.

“So that was probably the hardest part for me.

“I really enjoyed getting down to the beach so when we weren’t in lockdown I was there a lot just trying to stay away from footy for a bit. Going for runs and bike rides when I could.

“The most frustrating thing for me was when the physios said when it does go really well, it’s almost more frustrating because you feel so ready to get back out there but you have to be held back”

Nothing seemed to deter the determined 19-year-old who was surrounded by loving teammates, family, and friends who all played a significant role in Hill’s journey back to the playing field.

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Hill credited her adoring teammates, saying that this experience going through rehab brought her closer to the playing group.

“The supports been amazing the whole way through. But especially the last week” She said.

“My teammates, I appreciate them so much. Especially the ones that have done like an ACL before because they understand what’s going through your head.

“The relationships I’ve built with them over the past year like they wouldn’t have been so strong if I hadn’t done the injury. So, like good things to come out of long-term injuries.

“Nic (Nicola) Stevens she’s done an ACL a while back and she did a lot of rehab with me cos she just had like a swollen knee surgery. So that was amazing. And she is basically like a big sister to me.

“Gab Pound, she started the like rehab group and had a long term injury herself. So yes, she was amazing and the energy that they like gave me throughout my rehab was amazing and really got me through the last week”

Hill was the final member of the “OG rehab group” and completed her graduation prior to the captain’s run last week.

Hill was surprised with the way that she returned, and was awarded this week’s rising star nominee. Not trying to put any expectations on herself for her first game back, Hill did enjoy the expectation and pressure to perform she put on herself.

“It’s nice to get the recognition,” she said.

“I was trying not to put like expectations on myself but I also think that like a level of pressure is good.

“I enjoy having a bit of pressure because I feel like I play better”

It’s been a frustrating start to the season for the Blues, who currently sit 13th on the ladder at the halfway point with one win and five losses. Hill has felt her absence from the side even more watching from the stands in the opening rounds, finding it harder to sit and watch, knowing that her position was waiting for her to come and fill it.

As they prepare for a rare interstate trip to Western Australia to face the equal ladder leading Fremantle Dockers, Hill believes that a breakout performance from the team isn’t too far away.

“Watching those first four games, it got harder every week?” Hill said.

“I was like, Oh, this is so frustrating because mainly because I could just say like the spot that like what I could provide the team. I saw the spot that I could fill.

“It’s frustrating but I think we have like we are starting to build something and we feel like we’re very close to a bit of a breakout game “

The Blues will fly into Perth with Collingwood on Friday and face the Dockers on Saturday afternoon at Fremantle Oval. They will be under heavy testing and isolation protocols before flying back to Melbourne after Collingwood has completed their game with West Coast.

Despite the challenge of facing the in-form Dockers, Hill said the morale in the team is high and they are looking forward to the challenge.

“We’re really excited this week,” Hill said

“Although the scoreboard didn’t really reflect how last week when we were the review was quite positive.

“We had so many almost moments. The scoreboard could have been so different if they worked out. So we’re excited to see what we can bring to this week.”

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