RICHMOND youngster Jack Higgins has a newfound perspective on football following the brain surgery that threatened his career last year.
After bursting onto the scene in 2018, the hard-working small forward played the Tigers' first 13 games last year before experiencing headaches and blurred vision in matches in the middle of the season.
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Scans showed he a brain bleed that required urgent surgery, which Higgins revealed this year was so delicate that he could have been paralysed or died if things had not gone successfully.
However, after spending two weeks recovering in hospital and being concerned he would never play football at any level again, Higgins enjoyed a strong pre-season and narrowly missed selection for a triumphant return in the Tigers' round one win over Carlton.
The 21-year-old said he was hoping to face the Blues but knew it would be difficult breaking into the reigning premiers' line-up.
"Of course it is [disappointing to have missed round one] but I'm coming off a very long run-up. I had the big setback last year and to be honest I'm just happy to be playing footy again," he told AFL.com.au.
"I'm pretty hungry. When I did miss out in round one I knew there's bigger stuff happening in the world. Obviously I want to play footy at the highest level I can.
"Sometimes you have to wait your time and I know the side is coming off a premiership so it's not going to be an easy team to break in."
Higgins' dedication to getting drafted was famous before he stepped into Punt Road, but he said last year's shock injury battle had altered his mindset.
"I thought 'Oh I'm never playing footy again' and footy has been my whole life. But looking back on it I'm just happy that I came out of it all right. I think I've got this new approach in my head that knows other stuff is happening in the world now," he said.
"It would have been huge if I'd missed out on football, because it's my career gone in one instant. But I've definitely learned a lot of things out of it.
"I still try to work the hardest I can to be the best footballer I can. But I reckon my perspective's changed. But in the past if I'd played a bad game I would have been so down on myself now I can get over it quicker.
"I just play it week-to-week now, whereas before I was always thinking too far in the future."
Higgins will have to bide his time for his AFL comeback while in the game's shutdown period due to the coronavirus outbreak, but when he does play it will be without a helmet.
"I saw a photo and I thought it looked terrible, so I gave it the flick," he said.
"My head is very, very strong now. I've got 11 screws and plates in there, so my head's stronger than anyone else's. About six weeks after surgery I could have played again but the main worry was if I got a knock to the head but now it's really strong."
His time in the age of isolation has included training and following Richmond's fitness regime, as well as some gaming, which is a favourite pastime for Higgins.
So much so that he has joined the AFL Gamers Network, which will see stars from around the competition battle each other in the online world. The dedicated hub of AFL guns will stream their gaming online, with fans able to tune in and interact with their favourite players.
Higgins said he is looking forward to battling it out – but maybe not on FIFA.
"I love Call of Duty so I'll definitely be playing that. But I haven't played much FIFA recently and when you haven't played a lot of FIFA and you go back to it, you just get smacked. And you can't be getting smacked when it's going out for everyone to watch," he said.
"I've been playing PlayStation since I was out of the womb.
"I got the PlayStation and Xbox 4 on the day they came out and I'm going to do the same for the Xbox and PlayStation 5 when they drop later in the year. I've always loved gaming, it's awesome."
Follow these social media handles to keep up-to-date on upcoming streams:
- INSTAGRAM: @AFLGamers
- TWITTER: @AFLGamers
- FACEBOOK: @AFLGamersNetwork
- YOUTUBE: youtube.com/aflgamersnetwork