At a glance:
- Nadia von Bertouch has started running four months after rupturing her ACL in St Kilda's inaugural AFLW game.
- The North Adelaide recruit joins Tarni White in making positive progress from season-ending injuries.
- Von Bertouch has rehabbed alongside Kate McCarthy, with the two interstate Saints having to assess their futures after COVID-19 hit.
As St Kilda’s inaugural AFLW side revelled in their landmark debut at RSEA Park, Nadia von Bertouch knew her season was over.
She had felt the pop in her left knee after changing direction in the third term, but joined the post-match celebrations as her teammates remained totally unaware of her injury.
When the news broke the following day that the North Adelaide recruit would miss the entire season with an ACL rupture, everyone was caught by surprise.
But four months post-op and after overcoming ongoing hamstring issues for the better part of a year, von Bertouch has followed in Tarni White’s footsteps and commenced running.
“For me, it’s more of a relief than anything,” von Bertouch told saints.com.au.
“I’ve just been waiting for the last couple of months hoping that I was ready and I’m just glad to finally be able to actually run and tick the legs over.”
Von Bertouch’s time on the field in 2020 may have been fleeting, but it was enough to earn the admiration of the St Kilda faithful.
Poleaxed along the boundary line in an ugly incident that would have most players seeing stars, the tenacious forward picked herself up and soldiered on unfazed.
It’s a trait teammate and partner, Kate McCarthy, believes embodies von Bertouch perfectly.
“That hit just epitomises her as a person,” McCarthy told saints.com.au.
Von Bertouch’s stint on the sidelines was made considerably easier thanks to McCarthy, who was there every step of the long road back.
“The first couple of weeks of the injury, you’re pretty reliant on other people, and that’s usually where mums can step in and help out,” von Bertouch said.
“It was nice to have Kate for that initial part of the rehab, and I guess I’ve done the same for her now that she’s had her surgery as well.”
Ironically, what originally began as a road to recovery for one turned into a journey for two after McCarthy injured her MCL in a sickening incident against Fremantle three weeks later.
The interstate pair found themselves hobbling around RSEA Park for just another fortnight, before the league limped into a crisis of its own through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the final two games of St Kilda’s maiden AFLW season were suddenly erased from the fixture, the gravity of the situation began to take hold.
Von Bertouch and McCarthy – from South Australia and Queensland respectively – were faced with the tough choice of remaining in Melbourne to complete their recovery together, or return to their home states as borders began to close.
The two – along with sausage dogs Nacho and Norman – chose to remain down south, but it could have been a very different tale had they not met.
“We sort of said to each other the day that neither of us would still be in Melbourne at this time if we didn’t have each other,” McCarthy said.
“We’d both be pretty lost without each other at the moment.
“I guess both being injured, we were able to look after each other, but also maintain that positivity and help each other with our motivation when times were tough.
The joint rehab has provided what you’d come to expect: pulling each other through the tough times, riding the highs side-by-side and keeping each other motivated through the unprecedented lockdown.
And finally, after four months, von Bertouch has ticked off a major milestone in the path back to Season 2021, with McCarthy not too far behind in her recovery.
The ride has been far from what she would have expected from her first season of AFLW, but rather than be bogged down by the hardship, the 24-year-old is looking at the good that’s come from it.
“I guess I’m not someone who likes to dwell on things or do a bit of a pity party, I guess I just try to look at the positives,” von Bertouch said.
“For me, it would be great to get through an entire game, four quarters – I didn’t quite get there last time!
“Just to even go into pre-season and be able to get that under my belt and feel a bit more confident in the body leading into next year is something that will go a long way.”