By Andrew Jackson,
Determined and courageous are two words that sum Tim Barrett up perfectly.
Barrett made his debut for Growthbuilt SUANFC in 2011 at just 17 years old.
Despite his age, Barrett quickly established himself as one of the club’s most exciting young prospects in the NEAFL competition, winning the team’s Rising Star Award in his first senior season.
The accolades did not stop there, however, with the rookie earning a NEAFL Rising Star nomination in 2012 and position in the Eastern Conference Team of the Year the following year.
When combined with his success as the club’s leading goalkicker in 2012 and 2013, it was clear that Barrett was not any ordinary player.
However, sport can be cruel at times.
It was something that Barrett learned in 2015, when his rise was abruptly stopped by a devastating ACL injury which ruled him out of the entire 2016 season.
Hard work and dedication saw Barrett return to the NEAFL competition in 2017.
That is when he faced his greatest challenge yet.
Halfway through the season, Barrett lined up for the Students for a Friday night clash with the Sydney Swans at the SCG.
He was unable to complete the game.
“I went down and knew I had done something wrong – I had an inkling that I’d done it again,” Barrett says.
He had injured his ACL – again.
“I probably just didn’t believe it,” Barrett admits.
“I was obviously just shattered hearing the news.
“I was probably speechless more than anything, I just couldn’t believe I had done it again.”
The injury was enough to prompt Barrett to question whether he could play again.
He faced the prospect of having to end his short yet accomplished career in the NEAFL competition.
However, determined and courageous are certainly two words that epitomise Barrett’s attitude.
And now the talented youngster hopes to possibly return this season if the Students successfully qualify for the finals.
“The goal is definitely to be back playing,” he says.
“We did have some dates pencilled in at the end of the year but if everything goes to plans maybe finals [is when I will be back].”
Barrett admits that recovering from a second ACL tear was a challenge.
“This time, it is definitely not easy,” he explains.
“Mentally it kills you.
“It was definitely challenging early on – I probably didn’t know how to deal with it in the best way.”
Barrett has overcome the mental barriers of the injury by taking up a coaching position within SUANFC.
He says that the support from the club has been pivotal in making the process easier.
“The thing with rehab is that I went away and didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says.
“Then Tom Morrison and Lloyd Perris asked if I wanted to go into more of a coaching role with the club.
“Definitely still being around the boys is a good thing and just being involved in the club in a coaching capacity allows me to learn different skills.
“It has been really rewarding.”
Barrett says that remaining positive has been key to the success of his recovery.
In particular, he mentions the importance of looking up to players who have overcome injuries for motivation.
“There are guys out there that have come back multiple times from this,” he says.
“Using AFL players or professional sportsmen [who have been through similar situations] as inspiration helps you stay positive in rehab and learn how to do things best.”
Barrett says that Sydney Swans defender Alex Johnson’s words of encouragement were especially helpful.
Johnson’s story is an inspirational one.
The 2012 premiership winner has endured five knee reconstructions which have sidelined him for just as many years.
Yet, this year saw him finally return through the Swans NEAFL side, with Johnson aiming to return to the top grade in the near future.
Barrett says this is why Johnson’s message meant so much.
“I remember one message I received,” he says.
“I was pretty flat after doing my knee, and then out of nowhere I got a message from Alex Johnson.
“I had never met the bloke and had nothing to do with him but I followed his story.
“Reading his message was really motivating for me… if you really want it and set your mind to it anything is possible.”
It is a message that Barrett as a player embodies and if he does get the chance to pull on the Blue and Gold again in 2018, he will certainly know that he has earned it.
Barrett is making his final steps towards his return, as this week has been named on the NEAFL list to finish the 2018 season.