When Will Hayward broke his jaw in a frightening on-field collision early last season, teammate Tom Papley put his cooking skills to the test and delivered a bowl of pumpkin soup.
It wasn’t just a shattered jaw but a persistent hip injury that derailed Hayward’s 2019 season, and while the battered youngster was ravenous for his soup, he’s now hungry for a comeback 2020 campaign.
The spritely forward broke his jaw in a nasty collision with Carlton’s Kade Simpson at Marvel Stadium in Round 3, which ruled him out of action for three matches, before his hip injury sidelined him for five of the last 12 games.
The South Australian made 13 appearances for a return of just 12 goals, with injury not only rubbing him out of a host of matches but limiting his impact when he played.
Hayward is now nearing the end of his first full pre-season and has locked his eyes on a thriving 2020 campaign.
“I really want to bounce back this year. Sitting out for half of the season last year opened my eyes to how hard it actually is to play 22 games in a season. It’s just a matter of staying on top of my niggles now and being fit for hopefully a strong year,” Hayward told SwansTV.
“It was frustrating last year but that’s footy and that’s part of the job. It was a bit of an annoying rehab towards the end of the season and early in the pre-season. I was inside doing rehab most of the time before the best-and-fairest night, and the hardest thing about it was watching the boys and not being out there with them, so hopefully I’m fit and healthy for 2020.
“Early on in the pre-season I was monitored a little bit, but post-Christmas I’ve been right into the full training. All my niggles are in the past now, my body’s feeling good and I’m looking forward to a strong 2020.”
While Hayward’s third season at the top level was ruined by injury, his first two campaigns – 2017 and 2018 – were highly promising.
When the 2016 draftee booted his 50th career goal in Round 22, 2018, only 10 men in the AFL era had reached the milestone at a younger age.
Decorated forwards Lance Franklin, Matthew Richardson and Matthew Lloyd are among the front-runners.
Hayward says he’s open to the possibility of spending time on a wing in 2020.
“You never know. I’ve mainly been playing up forward in the pre-season, but I could spend a few minutes in the midfield this year just to get up the ground a bit more and then get back forward,” Hayward said.
“So I could spend a bit of time up the ground but I’ll mainly be forward.”
Hayward is hoping to begin his comeback in front of his home crowd when the Swans face the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval in Round 1 on March 21.