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'Mentally strong' Staunton set for return to Australia as recovery from horror injury continues

After giving ‘the mind a rest,’ the 37-year-old returns to her AFLW base tomorrow.

CORA STAUNTON RETURNS to Australia tomorrow as she continues her rehabilitation from a horrific career-threatening injury ahead of her third season in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW].

aflw-giants-cats GWS Giants star Cora Staunton. Source: AAP/PA Images

The 37-year-old Greater Western Sydney [GWS] star has been on a long road to recovery since sustaining a severe leg injury playing Aussie Rules in early May.

Mayo native Staunton suffered a triple leg-break and broken ankle lining out for UNSW-ES Bulldogs in the off-season Down Under, but returned to club action with her beloved Carnacon just 23 weeks after surgery.

The 11-time All-Star made her comeback from the bench in the Mayo SFC final in early October, as Carnacon landed their 20th consecutive county title. 

Speaking to The42 this afternoon, Staunton explained her current situation, and offered a positive update.

“I don’t know if I’m fully back now, but I fly out to Australia tomorrow,” she said.

“Obviously pre-season has started over there. The club have been very good to me, I ended up being out there a lot longer than I should have been last season — maybe 15 or 16 weeks extra — so I haven’t been that long at home.

“Obviously I’ve been going through rehab, I think I’m in week 31 now. They gave me a little bit of extra time at home because obviously I won’t be home for Christmas, I’ll be in Australia.

“It’s nearly not to get the body ready, just to give the mind a rest [while] doing the monotonous rehab I have been doing for the last 30 weeks or so. It’s coming along. It’s seven months broken since yesterday. I’m due to see the surgeon when I go back out, and I’ll hopefully go back into the majority of the training. They’ll filter me back in.

The biggest thing now for me would be going into contact. I haven’t gone into huge contact yet over here. It’s just getting the mind and body ready to go back into the physical contact side of it.

“I’m back running for the last probably 20 weeks, that’s not a problem. It’s just getting back into the contact side of the game, from a mental point of view more so than a physical point of view. That’s the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make over the next couple of weeks.”

Four-time All-Ireland winner Staunton has featured heavily in the Giants’ AFLW line-up over the past two seasons, kicking 11 goals in 14 games, and is well and truly looking forward to getting back into the fold after some time away. 

cora-staunton-after-scoring-a-goal Staunton recently returned to club action with Carnacon. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

She laughs that she’s not sure GWS will be “too happy after me playing with the club,” but after the year Carnacon had with the sad passing of founding member and manager Jimmy Corbett, Staunton felt she had to be there.

While she was sprung from the bench in the second half and scored a point with her first touch against Moy Davitts that day, the 2017 All-Ireland club champions had their season ended in the Connacht semi-final by Kilkerrin-Clonberne.

“Carnacon obviously is number one, you don’t want to be letting them down,” Staunton explains. “It would have been probably ideal if we had a few more club games to help me build my confidence, but that’s the way it didn’t fall. 

Look, I’m looking forward to getting back into a team environment. It’s been a rough enough 12 weeks trying to train and do rehab on my own at home.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where I’m at, they’ll give me a good guide to where I’m at and how far I’m off being ready for the first round of games which is the 8 February. I still have another little while to go but they’ll give me a good gauge to where I’m at when I go back out. 

“I’m doing plenty of running, twisting and turning and that, but actually to go out physically into a game, you can’t gauge where you’re a here.

“Obviously all of the medical help I have over there as well, they’ll give me a better gauge than I know myself over here. From that point of view, I’m looking forward to seeing what the surgeon says, seeing my physio, the doctor out there and see how far off I am in terms of being ready for round one.

“That’s their main aim: to get me ready for round one. They won’t be in any way pushing me to be ready before that. As we all know, it’s quite a serious injury and it’s one you have to make sure you’re 100% right [before] being back at it.”

Staunton adds: “It’s been a rough time, obviously, but it’s another challenge. It’s taught me a lot of different things; to be mentally strong and mentally tough. I certainly wouldn’t like to be back in week one or week two again, I’m glad I’m on the other side of it! 

“I’m looking forward to going back and hopefully getting back playing, that’s the main aim — to get to a good standard of being able to play. That’s what will have to be seen in the next two months, to know where I’m at. I can’t say until I go out there and see exactly.”

cora-staunton In action for Mayo in the 2017 All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With 18 Irish players confirmed for the 2020 edition of the league, it should be a rather interesting one, Staunton — who turns 38 next week — agrees.

“I’ll come across some of them, I think some of them are in our conference and others aren’t.

It’s great to see that there’s so many Irish out there: going from one the first year I was out there, to only having five last year, and now 18. It’s mad to think that it’s growing that quickly and that we have that many Irish out there now. You just wonder in five years time, what the number will be.

“It’ll be very, very interesting to see how they all get on, and how the new clubs will settle in. It’s in its infancy yet so there’s a long way to go. But it’s a great opportunity for girls to experience a semi-professional environment, and test themselves and challenge themselves at something new.”

“I’m looking forward to going back into team training and being involved with the girls, rather than training on my own here in the wind, rain and the dark,” she concludes.

“Looking forward to my third season out there, and with four new teams in it’s going to be a very good season.”

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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