'I was never going to let injury beat me': What's driving returning Docker?

WHEN Tiah Haynes spoke to people about the injuries she'd endured as a footballer, they would question why she continued to play the game after being delisted by Fremantle in 2018.  

The talented midfielder had undergone three knee reconstructions and a serious shoulder injury since being drafted with pick No.1 in 2014 for that year's exhibition matches, so you could understand their perspective.  

But Haynes is more than a little stubborn, and those questions only fuelled her desire to prove she was capable of returning to the top level if she wanted to. 

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Her determination was rewarded this year and she is back at the Dockers after a two-season absence, posting personal-best times on the training track and proving she is in charge of her football destiny.

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"A lot of people when you tell them that you've had so many injuries at a certain age, the first thing they do, even if they don't know you, is say surely you should be giving up then, or surely that's your body telling you something," Haynes told womens.afl.

"(But) this is my body, and I know when it's enough, so for me I want to prove not only to other people, but prove to myself, that what I believe is how far I can go. 

"It is stubbornness, and it's a drive for me that helps me prove to myself and others that I am capable of doing something."

Haynes, 27, suffered her first ACL injury on her 21st birthday, six days after being selected by the Western Bulldogs with the first pick in the 2014 draft for that year's exhibition matches. 

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She injured the same ACL, on her left leg, the following year during the Western Australia versus Victoria match in WA before taking two years off.

Drafted by Fremantle for the inaugural AFLW season, she played three games before suffering a serious shoulder injury against Greater Western Sydney, and then injured her ACL in the left knee for the third time while training with Fremantle's Academy.  

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Watching both Fremantle and other AFLW teams win and enjoy playing during two years on the sidelines reminded Haynes why she loves the game, and a return to the AFLW remained a goal that sat in the back of her mind when she played with WAFLW team Subiaco in 2020. 

The night before the WAFLW Grand Final, she finally nominated for the 2020 NAB AFL Women's Draft. 

"There were only three days until it closed, so I didn't leave myself a massive amount of time to think about what was coming," Haynes said. 

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"I really wanted to focus on what I was doing at the time. And if I was doing the right things, I would put my hand up and force someone to pick me up. 

"I didn't want to go into the last couple of games of the season thinking about what I needed to do to be drafted.

"I wanted to get through that season first before just throwing my name in a hat and hoping for the best."

Haynes credits strength and conditioning coach Tamara Jakobson, who worked across both Fremantle and Subiaco, for helping her return, as well as Subiaco coach and former Docker Amy Lavell. 

Senior coach Trent Cooper was also active in passing on feedback through Subiaco to help Haynes improve. 

Like so many AFLW players, however, her ability to return to the competition a better player had much to do with hard work, balancing training and 12-hour working days as a mine controller. 

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"It was a lot, (but) I was never going to let the injury beat me," Haynes said.  

"So it took a lot of hard work, a few tears here and there, and a lot of pushing and forcing others to do things with me to make sure that I did my best.

"The work I've done has been to get myself back where I am. I'm back now and it's really exciting."