WARNING: This story may make grown men cringe and perhaps even bring them to tears. 

Two days before Collingwood's final-round clash with Essendon, Magpies star Steele Sidebottom was training superbly and doing everything with typical ease – until he became decidedly uneasy.

Steele Sidebottom suffered an unfortunate training injury. Picture: AFL Photos

As first-year Irish import Anton Tohill kicked on his non-dominant left foot, Sidebottom half-pushed the tall teenager and copped his back-flicking right foot "flush" in the nether region. 

"It dropped me. I was down on all fours," Sidebottom told AFL.com.au on Monday, when he declared he'd be fit to face Geelong on the qualifying final on Friday night at the MCG.

As he gingerly stumbled to his feet, the unfazed country boy thought it was "just a normal knock to the nuts", so he joined his teammates for some strides along the centre square. He didn't last long. 

"I didn't really feel right. Usually when you cop one there it goes away after a little bit. But it didn't go away," he said.

As Sidebottom listened to assistant coach Robert Harvey address the players before a full-ground drill, he became dizzy, felt "pins-and-needles", had "a real bad pain in the gut" and thought he was going to faint. 

The Pies vice-captain left the training track and headed straight for the club's medical department, where he took some Panadol and curled up in the foetal position on a physio's table.

An ultrasound didn't reveal any issues, so Sidebottom was sent across the other side of the Pies' training ground to Olympic Park Sports Medicine Clinic. It was found the testicle had been ruptured. He was booked in for surgery that night.

Sidebottom had to get his 2010 premiership teammate Brent Macaffer (now part of the Pies' athlete welfare and engagement team) to drive him home. His girlfriend Alisha Edwards later drove him to hospital.

The dual club champion dreaded what was ahead of him. 

"Thinking of having surgery down there wasn't a great thought," he said with a wry grin.

He had one pre-surgery non-negotiable: he wanted a general anaesthetic.

"I said to the doc, 'Surely I'm going under,' and he's like, 'Yeah, you're going under,'" Sidebottom said with some relief. 

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The repair work was finished off with four stitches and Sidebottom was released from hospital the next day. 

"They put a bandage wrap around them to keep them supported and that was annoying because it felt like someone was holding onto my balls for a few days," he said. 

"My nut almost got a hole in it and it had been bleeding out, so it got a bit swollen, so I was trying to walk around them a bit."

Steele Sidebottom in action at Magpies training. Picture: Getty Images

During those first few days Sidebottom was "couch-ridden" and frustrated at being sidelined for the first time since round three, 2016, breaking a sequence of 88 consecutive games.

A month earlier North Melbourne veteran Scott Thompson had also suffered a testicle rupture and missed just one game – a recovery Sidebottom hoped to replicate. The Magpie medicos also spoke to their Kangaroos counterparts about Thompson's case. But, as Sidebottom highlighted, "each case is different". 

In round 23 he received an unexpected bonus when the Magpies not only defeated Essendon but Hawthorn upset reigning premier West Coast in Perth, lifting the Pies to fourth spot and a double chance. 

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"I tried not to think about (the possibility of) missing the rest of the season. I was hoping that the Hawks would get up so that if I did miss the first final I'd be OK for the second," the 232-gamer said. 

After initially harbouring doubts about making an on-field return, Sidebottom made solid progress from his sixth day after surgery when he finally felt somewhat comfortable, rather than tender, when walking. 

"I was being very careful because I was trying to look after it. It wasn't a pain thing – it was just about being confident they were right," he explained.

Those first hesitant steps out of the way, Sidebottom quickly became bullish that he'd be fit to face Geelong. 

"As any bloke knows, you don't want to cop any injuries down there, but it hasn't been as bad as what I was thinking it would (be)," he said. 

Since the surgery everything has gone exactly how we've wanted it and I haven't had any hiccups. - Steele Sidebottom

For the sake of comfort, he probably wouldn't want any either.

When Sidebottom returned to the club and his No.22 locker he was greeted by five blocks of chocolate tied in a pretty bow, with an attached note of apology from Tohill.

"I'm definitely not blaming him for it," Sidebottom said of Tohill. 

Irish Pie Anton Tohill. Picture: AFL Photos

Some of the locker-room humour is perhaps best left unsaid on a family-friendly news service, but the often-smiling Sidebottom has been happy to laugh at his own expense.

He was particularly amused at Collingwood's head trainer Rohan Bownds' attempt to make his recovery as comfortable as possible by ordering skin-coloured, jockstrap-style sports "jocks" with considerable padding at the front and precious little at the back. 

"He gave them to me on Friday and I was like, 'Yeah, I'll try and wear them.' And I'm looking at them and I'm like, 'I can't actually put these on – I don't even want to be seen in them!'

"I gave them a bit of a run today and they weren't too bad."

Sidebottom has no plans to wear any cricket box-type protection, as many had presumed he would.

"I'm probably going to be no different to anyone else – no one wants to get hit in the balls. If I get hit in the balls it's going to hurt regardless of whether I've had the injury previous," he said.

"I might wear a couple of pairs of jocks just to keep it nice and firm, but I won't be making too many changes." 

Missing the final round might have more of a physical benefit than a mental one.

"It wasn't mentally refreshing: one, because I don't like missing games and, two, because I was worried about my balls the whole time," Sidebottom said.

"But it's given me a physical freshen up that'll help me play some good footy."

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Sidebottom also has peace of mind, relieved that his mishap won't affect his plans to become a father one day. 

"The doc told me I have nothing to worry about. He actually told me that the quickest healing process would have been to just remove the testicle," he said.

"Being 28 I didn't want that. He assured me that if you remove one that you're still able to potentially have kids down the track. I've still got two of them there and they've healed up all right." 

Sidebottom has trained twice post-surgery – on Friday night, after which he "pulled up well", and he was feeling "OK" after Monday's session. He expects to increase his contact work at the main session on Wednesday morning when, he admits, he will still "try to look after them a little bit". 

"I'm confident I'll be right to go," he said.