STAR Geelong defender Tom Stewart remains nervous about his troublesome foot despite recovering from a Lisfranc injury in time for a full pre-season.
The three-time Therabody AFL All-Australian missed Geelong's finals campaign with the concerning blow and faced the prospect of a delayed start to summer training, before calling on an unconventional method — ballet – to fast-track his return.
But Stewart said the injury, which included ruptured ligaments in his foot, was naturally nerve-racking.
"There's still a little bit of a sense of anxiousness and nervousness," he said on Wednesday. "I think any time you start talking about feet, people get really nervous, because it's such an important part of your body."
The 28-year-old is fully participating in pre-season training despite his concerns and credited a ballet physiotherapist for his healing from the setback.
"I was really fortunate with some of the specialists that I saw," Stewart said. "I got hooked up with a lady by the name of Sue Mayes, who is a ballet physio [and] who has worked at North Melbourne for a lot of years with this particular injury.
"I've really liaised well with her and she's given me massive confidence throughout the rehab process … she's been unbelievable for me."
Mayes, from the Australian Ballet, also helped ex-North Melbourne defender Sam Wright bounce back from a series of foot and ankle injuries in 2017.
Stewart said his confidence was boosted by a "pleasing" start to pre-season.
"Obviously, with the nature of the injury, I'll have to be pretty honest [about] whether I'm getting sore and stiff and that sort of thing, but I'm 100 per cent in at the moment," he said.
"We had our first time trial on Monday, which was pretty solid. Then we did about an hour of footy, which was really good, really pleasing for myself to tick off that landmark off in terms of my rehab and be back around the boys, having a bit of fun kicking the footy around.
"In terms of my preparation and the way I'm feeling, I'm super confident that I've done the work now and I'm ready to go. I'm excited by seeing a full pre-season, and just being back around the group has been great for my mindset."
The gun Cat's return to training was led by a fresh set of voices, with James Kelly, Matthew Egan and Shannon Byrnes — all past players — forming part of Geelong's new-look coaching crew.
"For myself, I've had the same coaching staff since I started, so it's exciting. It felt like the first day of school on Monday," Stewart said.
"They're great Geelong people, but they're obviously fantastic in their own right in what they can do. They've come back with a real sense of excitement and a real sense of purpose. They've driven that with the young boys, and now we're ready to get stuck in as a senior group and start to challenge, and start to grow and develop a bit more."
The upcoming season marks Stewart's first without the direction of Geelong legend Matthew Scarlett, however, with whom he shares a notable bond. It was Scarlett, of course, who first noticed Stewart's talents while coaching him at South Barwon.
"It is strange," Stewart said. "But we still keep in contact. We caught up a couple of weeks ago and celebrated the year and the time we had together.
"I think for any of the boys that want to reach out to him, he's always got the phone on. He's obviously a great friend of mine and a great confidant."