RICHMOND young gun Josh Gibcus is heading to Qatar to spend a week at an internationally renowned sports medicine practice after his 2023 campaign was wiped out due to a nightmare hamstring injury.
The 20-year-old played 18 games in his debut season after being selected at pick No. 9 in the 2021 AFL Draft, but didn’t appear once this year after undergoing surgery in January to repair the hamstring tendon he damaged at training.
Gibcus was initially expected to return in the first half of the season but suffered multiple wound infections, muscular atrophy and damage to the nerve supply in the hamstring before he was ruled out for the rest of the campaign by the end of July.
Now the highly rated key defender is set for an intensive rehabilitation block at Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Doha ahead of the start of a new era under Adem Yze this pre-season.
Gibcus will depart on Friday with Tigers physiotherapist Anthony Schache – who has worked for the Tigers for more than 20 years and has a strong relationship with Aspetar – and will spend the week trying to overcome the frustrating injury once and for all, returning with a plan to execute over the summer months.
Aspetar was established in 2007 and is now widely regarded as the beacon of sports medicine with international football superstars Erling Haaland, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all spending time recovering from injuries at the world-class destination in the desert.
Richmond's high performance department dealt with a complex hamstring problem with Dylan Grimes more than a decade ago, but Gibcus' hamstring injury is understood to be far more complicated than the issue the co-captain faced early in his career.
Tigers physical performance boss Luke Meehan has spent recent months engaging with external experts across the globe to get to the bottom of an issue that has left specialists stumped, finding only one athlete based in the United Kingdom who has faced something similar, underlining the task the club is facing.
The Tigers view Gibcus as a crucial plank in the club’s plans for the next decade and are determined to invest in the raw talent to get him back on the park, confident this overseas mission will put the Victorian on a path towards returning.
Gibcus is back running at up to 85 per cent but will follow a carefully curated program ahead of Christmas before ball work is introduced, with the club hopeful of slowly transitioning him into the main group in the new year ahead of a return.
West Coast has also invested in Aspetar with Jeremy McGovern and Elliot Yeo among a group of Eagles set to spend time at the facility during the off-season break following a horror injury run.
Richmond is also aiming to regain star forward Tom Lynch for the start of next season after he played only four games in 2023 due to a fractured foot, following a pre-season plagued by a plantar fascia problem.
The 30-year-old is now out of a moon boot but has struggled with repeated bone issues that have stalled his career.
The dual premiership player will gradually build up his workload across the off-season and the first half of the pre-season before returning to the main group after the Christmas break.