Eight months after rupturing his Achilles tendon in round three last season, Jade Gresham is close to resuming full training as the Saints ask “why not us?” ahead of 2022.
After a disappointing 2021, when they missed finals, the club is turning to a core group of players aged in their mid-20s to lead the charge towards finals and eventually a drought-breaking flag under Brett Ratten.
Jade Gresham knows he is among a core group of Saints that needs to step up.Credit:Simon Schluter
At 24 and with 95 games behind him, Gresham is a key part of the core group that must fire for the Saints to be realistic contenders, and he knows it.
“I’m 24 now and a lot of our core group are 24-27, so we have to lead this club now and lead the group and lead by example,” Gresham said.
“We know that, and we are looking forward to hopefully having a big year next year.”
The Saints began 2021 on the wrong foot, losing several games by embarrassing margins, with Gresham’s absence not helping their cause. He has missed most of Ratten’s reign; he has played just 14 games in the past two seasons due to a stress fracture in his back, then the ruptured Achilles.
Gresham was helped from the ground by trainers in round three.Credit:Getty Images
But he says the experience in rehab will make him a better athlete as he has learned the diligence required to ensure both body and mind are primed for performance.
Much of his work has been focused on strengthening his calf muscles, but he also became much more aware of how his diet affected him, how he needed to attack the weights with both purpose and clarity and, also, most importantly, how his actions rubbed off on those around him.
Gresham is quietly spoken but carries influence in the group.Credit:Simon Schluter
Quietly spoken, he will never be a ranter, but he carries the bow-legged presence of a gunslinger in a western, which gives him influence.
“It’s important to just get out of your comfort zone and lead by example in whatever you do,” Gresham said.
Although questions surround the Saints, who had the second oldest list in the competition last season after adding players from all over the place, Gresham understands he is among a bunch of players who should be in their prime and can’t look to others to lead the way.
Jack Steele, Jack Sinclair, Jack Billings, Zak Jones, Brad Crouch, Rowan Marshall, Dougal Howard, Callum Wilkie and Gresham are in the bracket of players that needs to be consistent so Hunter Clark, Max King, Nick Coffield and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera can show their wares in a manner expected of talented yet less experienced players.
Gresham might have shied away from watching Melbourne win this year’s grand final, but he does not dismiss the eternal truth that Demons can inspire Saints.
“[They had] a similar road to us so to see them win one, [we think] ‘why can’t it be us?’ We want to be playing finals and we’re aiming to win a premiership so just need to put our head down and work hard,” Gresham said,
He’s worked hard to get the body right and occasionally tapped into the wisdom of Hawthorn champion Jarryd Roughead, who also overcame an Achilles injury in his career. Now Gresham is itching to play as he moves close to joining full training.
“It’s been a long road to recovery, sitting around all of last year trying to get it right,” Gresham said.
“It’s only been the past three months I have really ramped things up. I have had to be very diligent in my preparation and my body. It’s all coming along pretty good and fingers crossed, there are no more issues.”
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