We all know game 232 didn't come easy for you.
Game 231 was back in October of 2015, where you left the 'G with 26 touches, 9 marks and a goal against the Eagles. And of course, the 4th premiership medal hanging around your neck.
Fast forward 540 days to game number 232 and a lot has changed at Hawthorn since that day. Billy Hartung's just about lost all his hair for starters, can you have a quiet word to him about that please mate? I think it might be time to go the Ablett shave. He's better off looking like 2014 Gary Junior rather than Gary Senior circa 1995. Thanks in advance!
Back on track now. The Hawks had an unsuccessful 2016 campaign while you were gone but truth be told, it just never felt right going for four in a row without you. Your old captain Sam Mitchell has flown West and your old mate Jordan Lewis is now wearing the red and the blue. That didn't stop him from paying tribute to you though before your return to the 'G on Saturday night against the Dons.
"It's fair to say, there's a lot of love out there for Jarryd Roughead" - J. Lewis
He's right you know. From the moment your diagnosis became public on May 17, 2016 the love came in thick and fast. It wasn't just from Hawthorn or footy folk either. To be honest, as I look over all the public messages of support and think back to the night we all stood up and cheered your name, it's hard not to get emotional.
Strong As One. Always.
I don't want to trivialize your battle by brushing over things Rough but I know it's not something you would want to dwell on anyway. So let's stick to footy! The moment I heard you were coming back for season '17, could only be eclipsed when Clarko and the boys decided to make you the skipper too. With this side in a real transition period with so many guys in and out the door, it's comforting to have you leading the boys out of the tunnel.
Last Saturday night wasn't quite the fairytale return we all hoped for. Well, except maybe Essendon fans. However, it was evident almost right away how much we missed you in 2016.
When fellow #HashtagFooty writer, Brandon, sat down to look at our Best 22 I'm sure he wished there was three of you returning. One of you in the front half, another around the stoppages and an emergency clone that we could throw back when we need would be ideal.
The impact was evident though Rough and you are going to be crucial to our Finals chances this year. The much talked about lack of contested possessions last season might be solved by our three 'new' recruits. Not three Roughies but perhaps the next best thing. Jaeger, Mitchell and yourself combined for 14 of our 38 clearances in Round 1 and about 25% of our total contested possessions. You even managed a near team high 6 tackles too.
Then there's goals. Hawthorn have long had the major strength of a spread of goalkickers. Despite the Essendon homegame, I think you'd be hard pressed to find too many of the 78,294 in attendance that weren't hoping you'd slot that first chance. You missed that one but we didn't have to wait too long until you slotted one (It was great to see all the boys get around you). Two for the night was a great return and I look forward to cheering every one of them on for the rest of the year.
Speaking of cheering, how do you feel about the general noise from Hawks fans? It may have just been the Bombers home game but I was a tad disappointed with the noise. It's been a massive pet peeve of mine for the last few years and possibly that spoilt fan base creeping through. Hawks home games are too quiet! Something I might have to touch on in a little more depth after I give the fans a chance this season.
First strike will be the home game against the Crows this Saturday. No excuses.
It's good to have you back. We Hawks fans have been pretty spoilt over the last decade since you, Buddy and Jordan joined the likes of Mitchell and Hodge. Four flags in that time has created a supporter base that almost expects premierships every year and that has forgotten just how tough it is.
For me, each cup became less emotional each time. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried like a baby in 2008 after the long wait. I'm also not ashamed to admit that the tears that flowed for me in 2008 were never matched in the threepeat, despite all the storylines.
The redemption of '13 was great, the '14 injuries to players (and coach) made it sweet and the historic threepeat in '15 was hard to ignore. But I was spoilt. The emotion subsided more and more with each flag that went by and I had become exactly what I despised from other successful fanbases of days gone by.
Quick sidenote, here's the rundown of those who annoy me most:
Geelong - I hate cats. Facts presented without comment. 10 years: Hawks 4 flags / Cats 3, we beat them in a GF, they never went B2B.
Essendon/Collingwood - One flag each since 2000 but most fans carry on like they were alive for all their flags. Dinosaur Dynasties.
Brisbane - Their one fan who manages to be louder and prouder than everyone else but still doesn't understand all the rules.
Sydney - Pretty much as Lions above but there's more of them and they are somehow louder and more annoying. Plus you know, 2012.
Anyway much like this letter, sometimes in life we find ourselves just floating along without meaning and the footy world is not immune to that. It can take a story like yours to snap you back into reality and work out what truly matters.
It's bloody great to have you back on the field but it's even better to just see you healthy. If we're all lucky enough to see you lift the Premiership Cup like Hodge and Mitchell before you, then that's simply a bonus. It may not be this year but I'm sure you've got a few more left in the tank yet.
If it does come, I can assure you the emotion of '08 will pale in comparison. After all you've been through, one more would be worth all those that have come before combined.
Best of luck,
Just 1 of 70,000+ Hawks, happy to have you back.