IT was the year that was meant to make Scott Lycett. As he puts a wretched 2017 behind him, the important thing is that it didn’t break him.
With fellow West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui already ruled out having undergone a knee reconstruction, last season was Lycett’s chance to step out of his shadow and play as the team’s lead ruckman.
Instead, his own horror run with a shoulder injury meant he made just one senior appearance for the year.
“The opportunity was there with Nic out for me to play the No.1 ruck for a whole season but it wasn’t to be,” Lycett said.
“It was a massive opportunity. But you know, it’s just bad luck sometimes in footy. I’m still going to be trying to strive for that this year and trying to make a name for myself as a ruckman in the AFL.
“I’ve learnt so much about myself over the past 12 months with my knee and my shoulder. I don’t think I’ve ever been down in the dumps and said ‘poor me’.
“I’ve always thought of the future and thought I’ve played good footy before and there’s no reason why I can’t come back and play again. I’m 25 years old. I should be in the best years of my footy career.”
Lycett was racing time to get ready for the start of last season, having come off post-season knee surgery on a posterior cruciate ligament.
Everything was on track when he made it back to play in a WAFL pre-season game for East Perth against East Fremantle last March — until the second quarter when his left shoulder popped out in innocuous fashion as he tried to apply a tackle.
The moment set off a series of events that would ruin his season. Lycett had surgery and diligently completed three months of rehab before launching another comeback through the WAFL in June. He built form and confidence over the next month in the WAFL, but was becoming concerned about his shoulder pulling up increasingly sore after matches.
Ahead of the Eagles’ round 16 home game against Port Adelaide, Lycett didn’t hesitate when he received the call-up.
“They asked me if I was all right and I said, ‘yeah’. Which I was. I didn’t have doubts, I was worried about how it pulls up. So I was right to play, but during the week it was quite sore. But by the time I got to a game, it was ready to go,” he said.
“When I played that AFL game, after that game I couldn’t even lift my arm.”
When scans failed to reveal the cause of the mystery problem, Lycett went back under the knife and an infection was discovered. “They opened me up and as soon as they cut me open pus came out and it was infected. Then I was in hospital for about three days,” he said.
Lycett’s season of opportunity was cut short after that one game, and it was back to join Naitanui in rehab.
“For Nic and I to both be injured at the same time was obviously not ideal, but at least we both bounced off each other and knew what we were going through,” he said.
“We got to know each other really quite well. We’ve both had our ups and downs in rehab for 12 months but hopefully that will pay dividends when we go out and play together.
“It definitely helps when you have someone with you who understands the process of rehab. How you want to be out there playing and you’re watching when your body won’t let you.”
It was also a time when the two big men set their sights on rekindling the partnership they shared in 2016, when Lycett played a career-high 21 games to rebound from the previous season where he had been leapfrogged in the ruck pecking order by Callum Sinclair.
“We’re in the age bracket where we should be in the prime of our careers,” Lycett said of the prospect of a tandem act between he and Naitanui.
“So hopefully we get the chance to build on what we did a couple of years ago, which was my first real crack in the AFL. I’m looking forward to building on that.”
A potential complication for Lycett looms in the form of Nathan Vardy, who played 23 matches last season in the absence of the senior ruckmen and has the skill set to play the forward-ruck role in support of a returning Naitanui.
“That’s obviously up to the coaches. But I’m doing everything I can at the moment to put myself in the best position to be the No.1 or the No.2,” Lycett said.
“I think it’s healthy to have competition for spots and I’ve got no doubt that he’s helping me take my game to the next level and I’m pushing him in training to make him go to the next level. It’s only going to make all three of us better.”
The 203cm Lycett has had a smooth summer and eyes playing in both of West Coast’s JLT Community Series fixtures as a springboard back into the AFL.
“Since we’ve come back in January I’ve started doing tackling and stoppages and all that kind of stuff,” he said.
Drafted from South Australia with pick 29 in 2010, Lycett is starting his eighth season at the club and the final season of a four-year deal. “I love Perth, I love the club, the supporters, the boys and the coaches,” he said.