AN AFL rookie season is filled with hard landings off the field and, hopefully, softer landings on it.
For Mulgrave's Ryan Lester, his rookie year was the other way around.
The 19-year-old former Oakleigh Chargers star had the perfect introduction to his new club Brisbane Lions, moving north with little trouble.
That success followed him into preseason training as Lester won a place in the Lions team for several practice matches and was shocked to earn a debut in their first match of the 2011 season.
He turned on several impressive performances during the first three matches until his hard landing came suddenly and with severe effect.
Lester flew for a mark against Melbourne and landed awkwardly; he kept playing thinking the pain was temporary.
It was only days later, when his foot was still sore, he realised something was wrong.
"Our physios sent me for a scan and it found I had a Lisfranc fracture and would miss the rest of the season," he said.
"I had torn a ligament and bones had shifted in my foot.
"They told me they've never seen an AFL player get this injury. It's more a rugby league injury."
Lester's potentially good season ended that moment, followed by surgery, then a long rehabilitation process.
The Lions allowed him to take a few weeks' leave at home in Melbourne following his operation.
"I was playing senior footy and everything was new and exciting - then all of a sudden my season was over," he said.
A footballer's rehabilitation might be the least glamorous part of the job and Lester spent the better part of 19 weeks grinding away by himself in pool and bike sessions mixed with further treatment from physios and other professionals.
For a player in a new city, spending so much time separated from his teammates was tough.
Click HERE for the full article from The Weekly's Roy Ward.