GIANTS defender Sam Taylor is finally back to full health after overcoming an infection that left him hospitalised, on a drip, and barely able to walk for months.
The 21-year-old played in the round four win over Collingwood last June before his world flipped.
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The following day, a Saturday, he was stiff and sore – not a post-game variety – and it hurt to walk.
That night he woke up in sweats, in so much pain he couldn't move.
"It was quite scary," Taylor told AFL.com.au.
"It happened so quickly. I went from playing an AFL game, winning, and the next day not being able to walk and move properly.
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"I called the doc the next day, went to the club and had an ice bath and that didn't fix it and I started to stress.
"It got worse and worse … I couldn't move, I couldn't walk, couldn't get upstairs, go to the toilet, do anything."
The culprit? Septic arthritis, an infection that attacked Taylor's hip. Doctors still have no idea how it got into his body.
He spent almost two weeks in hospital, was on a drip for a month and could not walk properly for another three months.
All this while the Giants completed their season in a Gold Coast hub.
The robust defender who was coming off a breakthrough 2019 season – including a memorable preliminary final against Collingwood – dropped 11kg.
The road back has been long, but he's almost there, completing full sessions and preparing to play pre-season matches in the lead-up to round one.
Taylor said he had plenty of help from the club, with teammate Jack Buckley bringing him food in hospital, rehabilitation coach Simon Harries walking him through his comeback, and welfare officer Dylan Addison giving him a home and all the assistance he needed when out of hospital.
"It was definitely the hardest patch of my life," Taylor said.
"The process took some time. It's never happened in the AFL before, an illness like this.
"The physios and S&C (strength and conditioning) guys had no idea how to treat it.
"It was quite frustrating, in the hub as well, I was battling a bit.
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"I tried to get back, that was another setback, it kept getting worse.
"I had to go back to basics and not try to push myself to go forward."
Taylor said aside from regaining weight – he's back to 95kg – he had to strengthen and re-learn to activate his right glute muscle after it was eroded by the infection.
On a playing front, the Giants missed him terribly in 2020. A no-nonsense lockdown defender who can match up on taller and smaller forwards.
"He's got a knack of getting under the skin of a player, not a rough and tough way, but he doesn’t give his player and inch," assistant coach Adam Schneider said.
"They've got to earn their marks and their possessions.
"There's a fair chance when we put his name on the whiteboard that his opponent is going to have a rough day."
Taylor stayed in Sydney for 10 weeks following the season to train and begin running again, rather than return home to Western Australia.
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"I've grown from it, learnt things, become a better person, a better athlete.
"It's amazing to run again. I got back to training in January and began on the track again, I'm running around on air, it'd been so long.
"Sometimes I wondered if I was ever going to get back."