GEORGE Hewett says his back has "never been better" despite a bulging disc ending his 2020 season early, and he's feeling strong heading into his 100th game against Brisbane.
After a career-best season when Hewett finished runner-up in the 2019 Bob Skilton Medal, last year was a lot tougher for him both on and off the field.
The reliable midfielder had been a permanent part of the Sydney team since making his debut in round one 2016. But he only played six games last season before giving in to a back injury that had restricted him all year and needed an operation to repair.
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"I had surgery two days before the boys had to leave [NSW] because of a COVID spike," said Hewett.
"I was on pretty strong medication to slow my movement. But I used the time to study [accounting], because I wanted to at least get better at something while I had the time away from the team.
"But I feel strong now, I'm very happy with my back at the moment."
The 25-year-old also had a young baby to look after last year.
Henry, Hewett and his partner Alice Summer's first child, arrived about 12 weeks premature and with little warning.
"He was born so early that he had to stay in hospital for a fair while," said Hewett.
"But he gives us so much strength, because he's very tough. He's a healthy and happy little boy now."
Hewett has shown his own resilience and determination since being drafted with pick 32 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, and said having to work hard to reach 100 games makes him "especially proud".
Most of his 99 games so far have been played as a defensive midfielder, blanketing the AFL's premier onballers while also being able to pick up plenty of possessions himself.
But Hewett expects to spend more time in the backline against Brisbane, after gathering 19 touches and looking comfortable in a defensive role in the AAMI Community Series match against Greater Western Sydney.
"During the pre-season I was with the midfield, but I was sent down back against the Giants. I didn't really know what to expect. We were under the pump early, but I thought the defence fought back well."
"One of our strengths this year is that we have a lot of midfielders, so we'll all have to be very flexible."