FOOTBALL rehab can be a lonely place but Terang Mortlake teenager Josh Carlin knew the reward would justify the hard work.
Carlin, 18, will make his TAC Cup debut for Geelong Falcons tomorrow in front of family and friends at Warrnambool’s Reid Oval.
It’s taken the top-age forward 13 rounds to get his opportunity after a pre-season knee injury sidelined him for the first six weeks of the season.
Carlin, with six Hampden under 18½ games under his belt, will play as a third tall forward for the sixth-placed Falcons this weekend as their 23rd man.
The 188-centimetre prospect, who kicked 49 goals in the Bloods’ 2013 under 18½ premiership campaign, said he hyper-extended his right knee during pre-season.
But the Falcons, including coach Andy Allthorpe, had seen enough to warrant giving Carlin a chance on their 2014 list despite his delayed start.
“I tore my lateral ligament in the side of my knee, tore cartilage and bruised my ACL,” Carlin said.
“My rehab was well planned and I am fully fit now.”
Carlin was told of his TAC Cup debut at training on Thursday night but thought a potential call-up for the south-west game was hinted at the previous week.
He said it was “a pretty good feeling” after working his way back into contention via strong performances for his home club.
“I put in a lot of hard work through pre-season,” Carlin said. “It was a long few weeks being indoors and doing the same stuff but it was worth it in the end.”
Carlin said he wanted to grasp his chance and try and cement his spot in the Falcons’ line-up for the remainder of the season.
“It’s a whole new level and I like trying something different and it’s a good standard of footy,” he said.
“I like to get front and centre (up forward).
“Hopefully do my best and see what happens.”
The Mercy Regional College year 12 student is unsure of his long-term football future but hopes to pick up an apprenticeship in the south-west next year.
But his short-term goal is to play a role for the Falcons against the all-conquering Rebels tomorrow.
Carlin watched the Falcons, with Vic Country talls Patrick McCartin and Hugh Goddard firing, account for the Rebels in round one at Camperdown’s Leura Oval.
Geelong will take a vastly different side into tomorrow’s rematch with McCartin and Goddard among those missing, while third-placed North Ballarat is in the midst of a purple patch, having won its past seven games.
“I expect it’s going to be a hard game but I reckon we have a pretty good side and have what it takes,” Carlin said.