Jonathon Patton reached the light at the end of a horrific injury tunnel after booting a career-best six goals for the Giants in Saturday’s thumping win over Fremantle.
And co-captain Phil Davis warns the future will only continue to brighten for Patton as the two reconstructions it took to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee fade to a distant memory.
Saturday’s game was Patton’s 52nd at AFL level after being drafted at No.1 in 2011 and easily his best, with the 23-year-old kicking more goals off his own boot than Fremantle managed the entire game.
He’s played all but one game this year after completing an entire pre-season for the first time and the scars on his knee are all that remains of the seemingly endless months he spent shrouded in the darkness of long-term injury.
“Everyone has bad thoughts whenever they get injured,” Davis said.
“It’s obviously an extremely challenging aspect of footy, long-term injuries. The great thing about Jonny was how he attacked it, in particular that second one, it was amazing.
“He’s pretty special in terms of how he went about it. You’ve got to talk to him, I’ve had a few long-term injuries as well and lent advice during that time.
“[Quitting] wouldn’t have crossed his mind. One thing about Jonny is he’s extremely competitive and he’s really driven.”
Patton has had to draw on every scrap of that competitive spirit to haul him back from the depths.
Before his AFL career even began, Patton was sent to Stockholm requiring treatment for patellar tendonitis in his left knee.
He debuted in round 12 of 2012, but three weeks into season 2013 Patton went down with the first of his ACL injuries, writing off the rest of that year.
The second torn ACL followed in round 21 of 2014, and part of Patton’s rehabilitation sent him to the USA to work with Bill Knowles who had previously helped the likes of Tiger Woods and Frank Lampard.
“He’s had an unfortunate run of luck with his injuries but at the end of the day he’s just starting to get going in his career,” Davis said.
“Last night was a big step to kick six and how he kicked six, they were really impressive goals and impressive marks.
“He’s got an enormous future and it’s pretty exciting when you can just put it down his throat and he can make it happen.”
Patton started slowly against Fremantle before kicking a couple of goals in the second quarter and exploding to life roughly eight minutes after half time.
Up until then the Dockers had restricted the Giants’ rapid ball movement for lengthy periods, but a strong Patton mark and goal sparked an 11-goal-to-nil second half for GWS.
“I didn’t have a good start to the game at all and then after quarter time the delivery was really good and there’s not too much defenders can do when there’s connection between a forward and a mid like that,” Patton said.
“When your midfield’s playing well, your backs aren’t getting beat, it’s very hard for the opposition to score and I’m not sure if there was one player out there tonight that didn’t play their role.”
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