St Kilda’s Bec Ott is one of many AFLW players making their return to football this weekend.
The basketball cross-coder joined the Saints on the eve of the 2021 season as an injury replacement player for young midfielder Nicola Xenos, who will also be making her comeback in the practice game against Carlton.
Ott made her debut in the Round 4 victory against Geelong, before tearing her lateral meniscus in the VFLW just two weeks later.
It ruled the 27-year-old out for the rest of the season as she rehabbed her first major injury. She’s come back stronger than ever, running her personal best in the 2km time trial.
It wasn’t an easy road to get to where she is now, but the basketballer has maintained a positive mindset on the journey.
“To go down with a knee injury was really challenging for me, but I had to focus on what I could control, and that was the rehab,” Ott told The Inner Sanctum.
“I tried to look at the positives. In terms of a knee injury, I probably had the best of the worst. I ended up doing my lateral meniscus and some other cartilage and that sort of thing.
“It could have been a lot worse, but for me, the club was great with my rehab. I just had to give it everything to get back to full health.”
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There was an extra layer to Ott’s recovery past her football with the Saints, as she still had every intention of returning to basketball in the off-season.
Like many other female Aussie rules/basketball cross-coders including Monique Conti, Maddy Brancatisano and Eliza West, she was aiming to play both seasons in their entirety.
Playing as a guard for the Knox Raiders, Ott’s NBL1 season was at risk. She ended up getting in eight games before the season was cut short due to Melbourne’s lockdown, averaging eight points, 1.37 rebounds, 1.12 assists, and 0.87 steals.
“That was always the plan, to go back,” she said.
“It was still a massive challenge. Even though I was back, I probably wasn’t feeling 100 per cent. It really did take a little bit of time, honestly around that six month mark, to really feel good.
“That was the challenging thing, it was finding that balance to not overdo it and slowly build back. It was good to get out there again, and be able to get through it.”
Being a dual sport athlete means the season never really ends, launching straight into one pre-season after the other.
Ott has found playing both Aussie rules and basketball has helped her to keep her career on track in 2021.
“For me, I’ve found you develop great habits and commitment and discipline and those sort of areas to try and perform in both sports,” said.
“It is difficult, and some handle it a little bit better than others. It was a little bit challenging, but I wouldn’t change it. I love both sports, and I love all sport really.”
Preparing for 2022
Getting injured after not even three full games of footy left Ott with no guarantee of earning a new contract with the Saints.
As it stood, her contract was only a temporary one. Injury replacement players are by nature additional parts of an AFLW squad.
Ott’s re-signing was announced at the end of June alongside fellow injury replacement player Jess Matin, the talented young forward kicking nine goals in six VFLW games.
“I haven’t played a lot of footy, but [it was] my mentality and my commitment to be able to rehab and get straight back into it and my mindset to continue to grow and improve,” Ott said of her re-signing.
“I was very fortunate to get another opportunity. I’m very committed, and looking forward to giving it a go from the start.”
With the practice games on the horizon, Ott’s return has largely been lost in the huge pool of new signings, draftees, and high profile injury returns.
She admits of all her teammates this year, she’s most excited to watch the returning Nicola Xenos. The Saints will also welcome in draftees Ash Richards and Ella Friend against Carlton.
The likes of Nina Morrison, Chelsea Randall, and Daisy Pearce will be drawing the headlines, but Ott has just as much to prove as they do. Arguably more, with significantly less football behind her.
“I’m trying not to look too far ahead,” Ott said.
“I’m definitely excited, but for me I’ve got to really focus on every training, and I’m trying to learn and absorb as much as possible.
“I’m definitely itching to play, but I don’t want to get too far ahead. This pre-season was really important for me to learn and adapt as much as possible.”
Carlton will host St Kilda at Ikon Park behind closed doors on Saturday from 11AM. St Kilda will open its season against Richmond at Skybus Stadium on Friday, January 7.
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