Thousands flock to the small Victorian country town to see AFL legend Nathan Buckley return to the field… but his first match in 17 years does NOT go as planned.
- Buckley’s comeback ends with injury
- Thousands watch the return of the AFL legend
- Buckley is only nine minutes long
The long-awaited return of Collingwood great Nathan Buckley to the football pitch at 50 has been undone by a hamstring injury nine minutes into the match.
The AFL legend played his first game of football since retiring in 2007 when he laced up his boots for the Nilma Darnum Bombers against Catani in the Ellinbank and District league on Sunday.
Thousands flocked to the field, which is surrounded by paddocks and cows, to watch 2002 gold medalist Norm Smith play, but he was sidelined early in the first quarter.
“Almost two years since they won their last game, so I gave them my best nine minutes and 32 seconds,” Buckley told Fox Footy after the game.
Describing how he managed to get injured so quickly, Buckley said: ‘It was almost like Eddie Betts; front and center.
Nathan Buckley’s long-awaited return to the football field lasted just nine minutes.
Buckley was sidelined early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury
“I hurt my groin on Thursday and then again in the warm-up, but then five or six minutes[from the game]I was like, ‘That’ll be okay,’ I started to feel it.”
“But the way it ended was the way it was always going to end, I just would have liked to (play) another quarter or two.”
Nilma Darnum had led all day until her opponents came back late in the game and outscored them in the post with a two-point victory, 14.8 (92) to 13.12 (90).
Despite the injury setback, Buckley remained involved in the game helping staff and players off the bench.
“I just wanted to support him and help him out,” Buckley said.
“I couldn’t do anything on the field.”
Buckley is the latest former AFL player to appear in the Carlton Draft, a community soccer program in which former soccer players play for a country team in Victoria.
Before the game, Buckley admitted that he did not know what to expect from his body.
AFL medalist Brownlow drew thousands of fans to the small country town.
It was Buckley’s first football game since retiring in 2007, and it didn’t go as planned.
Despite the injury setback, Buckley remained involved in the game helping out from the bench.
“Getting hit and hitting as well, on tackles, is something that I have no idea how my body will withstand that,” he explained.
I’ll try to make the most of the game that I can and contribute where I can, have a few laughs and just enjoy being on the football field.
The Bombers are now riding a 35-game winless streak and haven’t tasted victory since beating Poowong in late July 2021.
They have twice come agonizingly close to breaking their drought this season, losing to Trafalgar by five points and the Lang Lang Tigers by eight points.