Devon Smith sometimes wishes he’d bitten the bullet years ago.
Last May, Smith pulled the pin on his season after just seven games to have the PCL reconstruction he hoped could alleviate five years worth of knee issues.
More than 12 months on, the versatile Bomber is feeling better than ever ahead of Essendon’s return to action against the Swans in Sydney on Sunday.
“I’d had the injury that I had for five years, so having had the PCL reconstruction … it’s gone that well that I’m starting to question maybe I should have done it years ago,” Smith told AAP.
“I went and saw (knee surgeon) Julian Feller two weeks ago and I don’t think he can remember one (PCL reconstruction) going as well as mine.
“My knee’s been pulling up the best it has since I can remember, so I’m really excited about the season.”
Smith starred in his first season at Essendon, averaging 22 disposals and 8.5 tackles along with booting 17 goals on his way to winning the best and fairest.
When his season came to a premature end, Smith worked to stay involved with Essendon’s playing group outside his injury rehabilitation, and believes he’s better for it.
“It was pretty eye-opening for me, how much tunnel vision you can get as a player … resorting to thinking ‘it’s all about me’ when you’re a player and playing games,” Smith said.
“So it was nice in the second half of the year. I did a bit of stuff with the recruiting and I was actually able to mentor a little bit at the club, just take a step back and see how everyone’s going.
“It’s such a stressful environment, so I’m hoping this year that even when I’m playing I can still pick up on those things if coaches are stressed, or players are stressing about minor things.
“I’m just very grateful I’m going to be back playing the game I love and I’ve also come out of it a more rounded person.”
Smith collected 15 disposals and kicked a goal in Essendon’s first-up win over Fremantle and, after overcoming the disappointment of the season suspension, he hopes to build on that performance at the SCG.
He’s looking forward to playing more footy alongside close mate Dylan Shiel plus “quiet achiever” Jacob Townsend, and after missing last year’s elimination final loss to West Coast Smith is determined to feature at the pointy end of this season.
“I’ve played in finals at the Giants but I’d love to experience that with this group,” he said.
“It’s the start of our journey and almost like a new coaching structure this year, it feels like a new football club again to me.
“I can’t wait to get out and get amongst it.”