The smile on Sam Taylor’s face says all you need to know about his current relationship with football.
He’s back playing football and doing the thing he loves, lining up on his childhood heroes.
The 21-year-old key defender played an important role last Saturday in the absence of Phil Davis, matching up on his childhood idol Lance Franklin during last week’s last gasp win in the Sydney derby.
Franklin booted five goals on Saturday but much like has over the past eight months, Taylor fought it out right to the end with the intention of beating him in mind.
“He was very impressive. He’s such a great player,” Taylor told The Inner Sanctum.
“Playing on him, he was my idol growing up so i was a little bit rattled”
The intercepting defender is ranked fourth in the competition across the first five rounds for one percenters per game and sixth in the competition for total intercepts.
Taylor is relishing every contest even more this season after spending a large chunk of last season bedridden and struck down with illness, having lost 11 kilograms during the lowest point of his struggles with a painful, debilitating infection in his wrist, ankle, hip, and back last year.
Detailing the extent of his struggles and what it means to finally be back out on the park playing games only reaffirmed to Taylor just how lucky he is and how much he loves the game.
“You realise how much you love football. My motivation this year has been so much more than recent years, just missing it all last year, the drive is a lot stronger,” he said
“I played against Collingwood in the game last year, a day later I got this pain in my lower back and glute and then I just couldn’t move.”
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“I ended up seeing a specialist, spent around 14 days in hospital before they diagnosed me with septic arthritis.
“They still don’t know how I got it.”
Bedridden in pain with a drip hanging out of him, It would take Taylor four months to get back on his feet and start moving again. The competitive desire within wanted to get back sooner, but Taylor knew after several setbacks that he needed to wait for it to properly heal and settle down before he could take the next steps in recovery.
“The process of getting it back to normal was not like an ordinary injury where you could just rehab the injury, this one you had to literally do nothing and just wait for it to heal by itself,” Taylor explained
“I tried to push myself sometimes through running and that just made everything 10 times worse.”
Rest assured, there were many hours spent watching Netflix and playing PlayStation to pass the time.
The day Taylor was allowed to return to training was akin to Christmas. Like any competitor and athlete who has the ability to compete taken away from them for a period of time, Taylor was arriving at training pumped up at the sheer thought of being able to re-join his teammates on the track.
“You really miss everything, especially when you haven’t been able to do it,” he said.
“I was so hyped for just a normal Monday training session. Yelling, talking s***, and I remember someone asking me, why are you so up and about and I was like, ‘I couldn’t do this for a year’.
“It’s been my best pre-season for that, I’ve been up and about and really happy to just be out there.”
Getting through the pre-season games and the early games of the season have all been significant milestones on the road back for Taylor. Stepping back into the cauldron that is AFL football, playing on some of the best players in the competition, is exactly the place he plans on staying long term.
“Just being out there for the past five rounds has been amazing,” he said.
“I just hope to stay healthy and keep playing good footy.”
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