Huntington to miss most of season with knee injury

WESTERN Bulldogs forward Isabel Huntington may not take to the field until round five of the NAB AFLW season, still suffering the effects of a sprain to her reconstructed right knee.

The club is taking an ultra-cautious approach with the No.1 pick from the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft, whose reconstructed right knee buckled at a training session in mid-December. 

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There were initial fears she had re-torn the graft, having initially torn her ACL in round two of the 2018 AFLW season.

Speaking to womens.afl at the club's season launch, Huntington – who's still building back into full training since the injury – said she would prefer to miss part of this season in the interests of a long-term playing future at the club. 

"I had an instability episode with it where it buckled inwards, so that was a bit worrying. We got it scanned just to check on the outcome of it. Thankfully the end result, after consulting with the surgeon, was there wasn't any significant damage to the ACL," Huntington said. 

"That was really pleasing for me, because obviously the prospect of having to go through a third reco in less than three years was quite daunting. The relief when I was in the appointment with my surgeon Julian Feller was amazing. 

"Obviously I'd love to be running around with the girls at Adelaide (in round one) and having a few games early in the season, but I just want to take it as conservatively as possible to eliminate the risk of doing it again. I never want to go through a reconstruction again, so just making sure we're ticking all the boxes and I'll play when I play."

If the 19-year-old had torn her ACL, it would have led to her third knee reconstruction in two-and-a-half years, having first torn her left ACL in September 2016.

"It was a pretty different sensation and pain (to a torn ACL), I was walking on it fine. Some of the testing was different, so it was a confusing time because there were a few different opinions as to what would happen," she said.

"I'm aiming for round five, but that's dependent on a number of factors. I've got some boxes to tick, my movement and strength with the physios. A big part for me will be confidence. I'd love to be playing in round five, but if I'm not feeling 100 per cent by then, I don't want to push it too much."

Huntington has been added to the Bulldogs' leadership group for the 2019 season, joining co-captains Ellie Blackburn and Katie Brennan, along with Hannah Scott, Nicole Callinan and Kirsty Lamb. 

"I'm really excited to soak up as much as I can from the established leaders we have there. 

"I think it'll be a really good experience for me and I'm humbled to be voted in by my peers. I've had leadership roles in my junior career, and I knew it would take a few years to step up and make my way in the senior system, but it's a really good opportunity."

When she finally takes to the field, she will be wearing a new jumper number, changing from No.9 to Aasta O'Connor's No.4 (who has moved to Geelong). 

"I've always played in number four in juniors, (under-18s) Vic Metro and (VFLW club) Melbourne Uni. I always gave Aasta a bit of stick when she was at the club about me taking over the number when she was going to retire or leave, whichever came first.

"She called me up to let me know she was moving to Geelong and offered me the number in quite a funny way, and I happily accepted. It's nice to pick it up from a great player and good friend of mine." 

In other news from the Bulldogs' season launch, VU Whitten Oval will have a new scoreboard in time for the AFLW team's first home game in round two against Geelong. 

"We've broken ground on the building for the new electronic scoreboard," club president Peter Gordon said. 

"We last had a scoreboard at the Whitten Oval in 1997 and I haven't been able to go to a game at the ground in the last few years without being mobbed by people who don't want my autograph, but ask, 'when are we going to get a bloody scoreboard?'. 

"The answer is, in 20 days' time."