Tom Green waited by the phone with a bundle of nerves in his stomach.
There were times the 20-year-old GWS Giants midfielder thought his season was over, his hopes of featuring in an AFL finals series up in smoke.
Watching his teammates fight to secure a place in the top eight while he rehabilitated a hamstring injury was not so much nerve-racking as it was frustrating.
Green wanted to be out there. But whether Giants coach Leon Cameron would roll the dice on him for Saturday's elimination final against the Sydney Swans in Launceston was out of the Canberra export's hands.
So on a day off in Melbourne, Green tried to calm the nerves. Pretty good at switching off from footy for a young fella, he reckons, but this was a little different.
Then the phone rang. It was Cameron: We're going to bring you back in.
"I was ecstatic, it was such a good call to get, I was pumped up," Green said as he prepares to return after almost a month out.
"Coming back from injury, you never know what the coaches are thinking but I just had faith in the work I'd done throughout the year and since hurting my hamstring, the work I'd done to get myself back.
"It is amazing. Adding those layers like the derby takes it to another level. The history the Swans and Giants have had in some finals as well, they've been cracking games.
"Finals footy is what we play for, I know it's a well spoken cliche but it's the truth. You play all year, you do the hard pre-season sessions, you go through all of that throughout the year to play finals. To finally be here and get the opportunity to play in a final, I'm just so excited and cannot wait."
Green is one of four inclusions in Cameron's side to face the Swans alongside captain Stephen Coniglio, veteran ruck Shane Mumford, and utility Sam Reid.
Cameron says "we go in with a really strong midfield". So too will the Swans who boast names like Luke Parker, George Hewett, James Rowbottom, and Chad Warner, all ready to go "toe to toe" with their rivals in a derby like no other.
"It's an interesting selection because Tom has been absolutely terrific for us this year and he has been out for three weeks," Cameron said. "Sometimes having a rest from that week in, week out of battering footy like he plays ... is really good."
"Tom has done a power of work, and again we erred on the side of caution. It was a two-week hammy and we turned it into three. He probably should have played last week but we just pulled him back. He is ready to go.
"We expect him to come in and do his role like he has been doing all year, he plays that inside mid. One thing about Tom that also gives us another weapon forward, is when he is forward he goes deep, always marks the footy and always hits the scoreboard.
"We've seen that throughout the year and we expect him to do that again."
Finals football for Green, who finished second for the Rising Star, is like "the shiny new thing" in a 23-game career already met with unprecedented challenges in an AFL bubble.
Green admits "last year we probably didn't handle it the best", and the results show it. The Giants went from grand finalists in 2019 to missing the finals. But now they are primed to launch a finals raid.
"Leon talks about the big focus has been on days on, we come in and train hard, we do our weights, we do our meetings, we get all that sort of stuff right," Green said.
"But when we're not talking about footy and we're seeing each other around the hotels and whatnot, we're not focusing on footy. Last year in the hub, sometimes your days off got eaten into and you were doing things you wouldn't normally do if you were in your routine back in Sydney.
"It can't really be underestimated, it was the first time anything like that had happened in AFL history.
"Given the benefit of hindsight, we looked at what we didn't get right last year and we mended some of those things. We've handled it a lot better and our results would certainly reflect that."
AFL ELIMINATION FINAL
Saturday: Sydney Swans v GWS Giants at York Park, 3.20pm.
Sydney Swans squad:
B: H.Cunningham 7, L.Melican 43, D.Rampe 24
HB: J.Lloyd 44, T.McCartin 30, J.McInerney 27
C: J.Dawson 34, G.Hewett 29, I.Heeney 5
HF: W.Hayward 9, H.McLean, 41 E.Gulden 21
F: T.Papley 11, L.Franklin 23, S.Wicks 45
FOLL: T.Hickey 31, L.Parker 26, J.Rowbottom 8
I/C: C.O'Riordan 38, C.Warner 1, O.Florent 13, J.Bell 32
EMG: S.Reid 20, C.Sinclair 18, B.Campbell 16, R.Fox 42
GWS Giants squad:
B: J.Stein 42, S.Taylor 15, I.Cumming 13
HB: L.Ash 7, N.Haynes 19, L.Whitfield 6
C: J.Kelly 22, S.Coniglio 3, H.Perryman 36
HF: T.Taranto 14, H.Himmelberg 27, T.Greene 4
F: Z.Sproule 28, J.Hogan 23, M.de Boer 24
FOLL: S.Mumford 41, J.Hopper 2, C.Ward 8
I/C: S.Reid 50, D.Lloyd 38, T.Green 12, C.Idun 39
EMG: K.Briggs 32, T.Bruhn 5, P.Davis 1, C.Stone 18
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