South Bunbury reserves player Griffin Russell defies odds in courageous return to footy
A little over a year ago, Griffin Russell woke from a coma — the result of a crash that changed his life.
Two weeks ago, he defied the predictions of doctors and nurses by taking the field for the South Bunbury reserves for the first time since that night — and winning his side’s best on ground.
“All I remember is a couple of yawns and then a U-turn and I woke up in hospital three days later,” Russell said of the crash.
The crash left him with a broken femur, ankle, elbow, ribs and hip and he now has a metal rod running through the base of his femur. But an appetite for a challenge and a drive to return to something near-full fitness saw the 21-year-old blitz expectations of his recovery.
“I was in hospital for that one week,” Russell said.
“They wanted me originally to stay for two, but I just did all the physical assessments and really pushed through.
“A lot of the nurses and doctors told me that sport was looking unlikely, but I just had that mentality where I wanted to get out there and play again so I worked really hard in rehab and managed to get back.”
But his path back to football was in no way linear and Russell admits having to manage self-doubt and being frustrated by his own limitations.
“I was in a wheelchair for three months and then for a month and a half I was on crutches,” he said.
“At first I thought these were just injuries I could overcome, but once I started walking on it and struggling with day-to-day tasks I really started to doubt myself a bit.
“That is when I started my first rehab program, which was a lot of body weight and nothing to do with extra weight which was really frustrating because I knew I had a bit more in me but physically there was nothing I could do.
“I thought, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be as good as I was or run as fast as I could’, but I just worked really hard and one day it just clicked and I didn’t feel as much pain as I did.”
With the support of his family, mates and the football club, Russell made his return more than 16 months after the crash, winning his team’s best on ground in a stunning come-back game.
“That was really exciting, it was against Carey Park, it was a home game, and we managed to get a win,” he said.
“Footy to me is about getting out there and having fun with your mates and it is a bit more than going out there and kicking a ball, they look after you at South Bunbury.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life getting back out there and getting to play with my mates.”
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