INJURIES can be a curse that ruin careers. But they can also be the making of a player.

When it comes to Jade Gresham, there are many inside Moorabbin who believe the moment he ruptured his Achilles at Marvel Stadium just over 12 months ago will prove to be the defining moment of his career.

The 24-year-old didn’t play again after round three last year, following a 2020 campaign that was cut short by a stress fracture in his back, wiping out the second half of that season and reducing him to a measly 14 appearances across two years.

But unlike the back injury that predominantly required rest and looked like nothing to the naked eye, Gresham was left physically broken when he tore his Achilles against Essendon at Marvel Stadium. He could no longer rely on his talent. Gresham had to become an elite preparer if he was going to get back on the park and fulfil the potential the Saints saw in him when they took him in the first-round of the 2015 NAB AFL Draft.

Jade Gresham grabs his leg in round three, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

It didn’t happen overnight. But over the course of many weeks and months inside RSEA Park, Gresham learned to love the little things. It was no longer a chore to complete weights at an elite level, recover properly with ice baths, massage and physio sessions or eat and drink properly. And it slowly dawned on the northern suburbs product that his talent would only take him so far. Application is far more important in this business.

Those inside St Kilda Football Club marvel at the transformation Gresham made over the course of a ruined winter. Under the guidance of rehab co-ordinator Marcus Krygger, head physiotherapist Richard Citreon, strength and conditioning coach Steve Forcone and head of mental health and wellbeing Ben Robbins, he went from being in the bottom 10 per cent of preparers at the club to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Now the football world is marvelling at a talent who has roared back to life across the first four rounds, a talent that has the capacity to be an All-Australian by the end of this winter, one who could lead the Saints back to the promised land for the first time since 1966.

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"You've got to take some positives out of the negatives that's happened. I like to think it will hold me in good stead. It's only early on, but hopefully I can take a lot of positives out of what happened in the last year or so," Gresham told this week.

"It was more mentally draining than anything, really. I love playing footy. That's all I've grown up doing. For that to get taken away from me was mentally hard; seeing your mates run out every week I really missed that feeling; that's what you play for, you love running out with your mates and to get that taken away from me was pretty mentally challenging.

"But I had a really good support network around me with family, friends, people around the club who helped me throughout. I like to think it will hold me in good stead."

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Reflecting ahead of his 100th game against the Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Gresham still doesn’t know where his best position is. Not that it's a problem.

Brett Ratten has used him more in the midfield than first planned across the first month of 2022. Gresham amassed an equal career-high 32 disposals to torch Richmond in the middle in round three, before spending most of last Sunday in attack where he slotted four goals in the 69-point win over Hawthorn.

"It's a hard one," he said.

"It will change week to week, really. I like to have a good mixture of both; play a bit mid, play a bit forward; wherever Ratts needs me I'm happy. It's good to have multiple positions, so if you're not getting a kick you can go into the midfield or go forward."

After so little success for so long, Gresham and Max King are two reasons why long-suffering St Kilda supporters are daring to dream about better times. Everyone is talking about the dynamic duo in the red, white and black, and Gresham isn't bothered by the noise.

St Kilda's Max King kicks for goal against Richmond in R3, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"You've just got to embrace it," he said.

"I love running out and playing footy; that's all I've ever loved doing. When I'm playing footy that’s when I am the most happy. I just go out there, have fun and play with my mates, let the rest take care of itself. I'm pretty easy going. Nothing really fazes me."

Gresham is planning to spend time working with Indigenous children at his alma mater, Parade College, this year in another sign of his growth since footy was taken away from him last year.

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The Northern Knights product was one of seven Indigenous players – Paddy Ryder, Bradley Hill, Ben Long, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Jarrod Lienert and debutant Marcus Windhager to face Hawthorn at the MCG last weekend, with the Saints representation falling one short of the VFL/AFL record held by Fremantle in round 10, 2017.

"It was an unreal experience. We've got nine indigenous boys on our list and for seven to run out it was an amazing experience. I've never had that before so hopefully many more to come. All the boys loved it. It was an awesome day for the club," he said.

Windhager didn’t only endure a challenging day of nerves ahead of his first taste of league football, the next generation academy graduate started the morning with a car crash but ended it with 15 disposals in an impressive debut that left Gresham beaming.

"He had a bit of a mare, Marcus. He got in a bit of a car crash before the game, which would be pretty stressful for the young fella. Obviously playing his first game, you'd probably be nervous enough as it is. To get in a car crash probably made it even worse," Gresham said.

"He rocked up to the game and told a few people, laughed it off. He played a really great game for us. He played his role. He is going to be a good player for us for the future."

No one wants to spend large chunks of time on the sidelines, but it has proven to be a blessing in disguise for Gresham.