Author: Nic Kerber
When Kookaburra Jack Welch eventually looks back on his playing career, it is almost certain that he is going to remember 20 October 2019 as a telling moment in his hockey journey.
This Sunday, six days out from his 22nd birthday, Welch will make his long-awaited return to competitive hockey when he runs out for the Tassie Tigers against the Canberra Chill in the Sultana Bran Hockey One League.
Back on 11 April 2019 in the middle of the Kookaburras’ Pro League campaign, Welch received news after having an MRI scan that he had a stress fracture in his lower back.
That is hard news for anyone to take, let alone a 21 year old representing his country in the sport he loves. So for the past seven months, Welch has learnt the full extent of what it means to be patient. He resigned himself to the fact that being patient was all he could do, as there was no use in wallowing or complaining about it.
“Initially it basically meant a lot of rest,” Welch recalls on the only thing he could do when he was given the prognosis.
Then as the days and weeks went by, he gradually undertook the slow rehabilitation process.
“I started off with doing nothing for a month and then built up to doing a bit of strength work, a bit of slow jogging and then a lot of Pilates,” said Welch.
“A lot of the rehab was about doing certain exercises and a lot of work around Pilates, strengthening those muscles and using correct techniques.
“There was a lot of conditioning in the middle months and it took me about five months until I was able to do any training with the stick and ball, and it has now been seven months.
Adding to challenge of playing the patient game of rehabilitation was that it was the first time Welch had experienced an injury of that extent. As they say, there’s a first time of everything.
“It was definitely tough, considering it was my first major injury and my longest period of time out,” said Welch.
“I guess I didn’t look too far forward, just did what I had to do in the moment. I didn’t want to get caught up thinking about when I’d get back or how long it was going to take.
“The time seemed to go pretty quickly. It was tough having to sit on the sidelines and watch but you just had to deal with it.
But now that is all behind him and after restoring his fitness and being back in full training, excitedly the time has finally arrived.
“It almost felt like a bit of a fresh start…there was a moment where it was pretty good getting back on the stick and ball,” said Welch.
“It has been a long time and I’m ready to go. I’m fresh, I’m ready and I’m excited. It has been a long ride and it’s going to be awesome to get out there.”
“I’m looking forward to the game the most, not for any particular reason, I just love getting out there and competing.
With his back issues behind him and having developed renewed core muscle strength, Welch is thankful and grateful for the attention the Kookaburras physios and medical staff invested in his recovery.
“I definitely had a lot of attention from the physios. They helped a lot, gave me a lot of their time and a lot of guidance in what I needed to be doing,” said Welch.
“I was checking in with them before and after every session, getting rub downs…they put in a lot of work.”
Preparing for his Sultana Bran Hockey One debut on Sunday, Welch’s attention is now on helping his home town side, the Tassie Tigers, secure a spot in the top four.
The Tigers take on Brisbane Blaze tonight before heading to Canberra to face the Chill on Sunday.
“We are close to being full strength. I think we’ve done pretty well so far but we’ve definitely got room for improvement,” said Welch.
“There is a lot of belief in the group so I don’t see any reason we couldn’t have a crack at the title.
“Tasmanian guys are always proud to put on the Tassie colours and represent the state, and I think we do pretty well as one of the smaller states, so we definitely go out there and have a real crack.”
Tickets for both matches are available through Ticketek and can be seen LIVE and exclusive on Kayo.