AFTER a long injury layoff, former Kerang coach Troy Coates is back on the park and simply enjoying his footy again.
Coates suffered a back injury in the opening that saw him sidelined until the clash with Tooleybuc Manangatang on June 24.
Incredibly, he lost 5cm off his left leg after his L4 disk in his back began pressing on a nerve.
“It has been a really frustrating year,” Coates said.
“I missed about 13 weeks of football, and even in the last couple of rounds I’ve played forward and haven’t been able to do the things I’d like to.
“It was good to have the bye last week and I’ve finally started to get some confidence.
“The time off has really freshened me up. While some people are maybe a little over footy at this time of season, I’m loving being out there and I’ve really got the passion back.”
The four-time premiership mentor bounced back to form in some style, seemingly racking up possessions and clearances with ease in the Blues' 93-point drubbing of Lake Boga.
“It was one of the windiest games I’ve ever played in,” he said.
“We played really well and speaking to [coach] Travis Matheson after the game, he was really impressed with how well we linked up with the footy.”
For the first time in five years, Coates hasn’t taken on a coaching role at the Blues, with Matheson taking the reins as the lone senior coach.
Additionally, the coming off-season could be the first time in five years that Coates hasn’t played football for Northern Territory FL side Nightcliff.
Coates, the 2011-12 Nichols medallist, says by the time the opening round of the Central Murray season came around, he played 40 games of football in 12 months.
“No wonder I hurt my back,” he said. While his short-term focus is leading the Blues into another finals series, he is confident of returning to the Top End after Christmas.
“My main focus after the [CMFNL] season is to get some rest, strength and conditioning and make sure it’s right to go.
“If I can get it right, I plan on maybe playing a few games after Christmas.”
The Blues are on a quest for their sixth consecutive premiership and are confident they have what it takes to again conquer the Central Murray.
“The old term is one week at a time, but we a have pretty mature group with lots of finals experience and we understand what needs to be done,” he said.
“We have a focus on getting a solid four-week blocks under our belts now and make sure we’re fi t heading into the finals.”