This year was a significant step forward for me.

After two years on the sidelines, there was no wiping the smile from my face when I suited up and debuted for Hawthorn in our round one opener against Essendon at the MCG.

Playing on the game’s biggest stage is what it is all about. But for me, that day was extra special.

Knowing the road I had to take, just to get back to the centre square, made the evening all the more sweeter.

Of course, it goes without saying, I was disappointed that we didn’t manage to get the win against the Bombers on the day.

After everything I have been through, I have learnt to celebrate the small wins and to take nothing for granted.

Looking back, I was just excited and proud to be back out there and sharing that moment with my family, friends and teammates.

It had been a difficult and challenging two years up until that point, as I nursed myself back to full health. I feel comfortable saying so now, but a part of me had lost my love for the game.

When I first ruptured my patella tendon, footy became hard to watch.

And as selfish as it sounds, I hated being in the rooms and watching my then Gold Coast teammates get ready before games.

Knowing how far away I was personally from returning to the field, made being there all the more unbearable.

Over time, the environment and surroundings itself eventually served as a reminder of how much football I had missed due to ongoing knee problems.

I ultimately decided a change was in my best interests. I needed a fresh start, where I could rejuvenate my AFL career.

I was hopeful, a new environment and change of cities, would help me recapture my love for the game.

Jaeger O'Meara evades a tackle in the AFL
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 01: Jaeger O’Meara of the Hawks handballs whilst being tackled during the round two AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Adelaide Crows at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 1, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

I’m proud to share with you that I’ve never felt better. Mentally, and physically, I can’t remember ever being in better shape to where I am now.

I know there are blue skies ahead.

And I also know that there will be those who suggest I might not get back to my best football. That the ruptured patella tendon is too difficult an injury to overcome.

But I’m in such a positive space right now. I understand more than ever what is most important to me, which is proving to myself and everyone who has continued to support me that I can overcome this challenge. I know it’s a difficult injury to overcome, but I have already made some promising steps in the right direction and I’m confident I can get back to my best footy.

On the plus side, having spent a considerable time in rehab, I know my knee really well.

The rest of my body is feeling just as good. After experiencing mid-season soreness, my confidence grew another inch when I managed to come back and play the last two games, especially for Hodgey’s (Luke Hodge) final game as a Hawk.

I’m itching to go again – I wish the season was starting right now to be honest. I feel like I could play footy tomorrow.

I’m really looking forward to this pre-season; we still have a number of weeks before we get back to Waverley Park but I’m ready to go.

I can’t wait for the 2018 AFL Season, so I can get back to playing the game I love.

Jaeger O'Meara

Jaeger O'Meara is an Australian rules footballer currently playing for the Hawthorn Football Club in the AFL.

Jaeger previously played for the Gold Coast Suns, winning the AFL Rising Star award in his first season in 2013.