WHEN Jackson Thurlow suffered a lacerated kidney at Geelong training in December, he couldn't help but worry about his chances of playing AFL this season.
Fast-forward eight months and the 21-year-old has nailed down a spot in the Cats' experienced backline and been named the round 19 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee.
"I've just been really happy to keep playing in the Geelong footy team at the moment," Thurlow told AFL.com.au.
"We're starting to get a lot of guys back from injury and it's really important for me personally that I try and hold my spot and keep trying to build on the form that I had when I came back at the start of the year."
Despite fears Thurlow could need his kidney removed after he copped a stray elbow in a training accident, the seriousness of his situation took a while to sink in.
"It didn't really hit home too much until my parents flew over from Tassie, and my girlfriend, so it became pretty real when I saw the look on their faces," the Launceston product said.
"The first five to six days were pretty touch and go. I was probably going to lose my kidney for the first 48 hours, which was a little bit scary.
"But the whole footy club was really good. I had basically everyone from the footy club come through the hospital doors in the three or four days I was in there.
"It was probably one of the harder things to get my head around if I could actually get back into the AFL team and if I was actually going to have an impact in 2015.
"I can't thank the footy club enough. They've really backed me in and it's given me a lot of confidence."
Having taken seven weeks to recuperate back in Tasmania after leaving hospital, Thurlow returned to training fresh and keen to cement his spot.
He broke into the side after the Cats lost their opening two matches to Hawthorn and Fremantle and hasn't looked back since, with his strong intercept marking and creativity seeing the No.16 draft pick in 2012 heralded as Corey Enright's successor.
Thurlow has played 15 matches this year and is averaging 18 touches and five marks – his exact numbers from Saturday night's crucial win over the Sydney Swans in Joel Selwood's 200th game.
"It was probably one of the better games I've been involved in to be honest," Thurlow said.
"The Geelong crowd was probably the best I've heard. They were really loud and they supported Adam Goodes really well and the Sydney footy club and after the game the whole crowd was cheering Selwood.
"It's something that will stick in my mind for my footy career, but it was also a really important game for our footy club to beat a top-four side – like they were at that stage."
The fighting 32-point triumph saw Geelong's transitioning outfit cling to eighth spot on the ladder and Thurlow believes the Cats will worry any opponent if they secure a ninth consecutive finals berth.
"I think our best is definitely good enough (to beat the best teams) and I think all the playing group and coaches believe that," he said.
"It's just a matter of putting four-quarter efforts together. The second half against Sydney we kept them to 11 points in the second half, so we are capable of doing it."
Jackson Thurlow's junior club: Launceston Junior Football Club