Eagle Tom Cole back to full fitness after nasty injury
West Coast premiership defender Tom Cole says he made the right decision in abandoning his plans to return from injury late last season.
Cole was struck down by a serious ankle injury last summer and his slow recovery meant he would have only been able to play at the tail-end of the 2022 season.
With West Coast's finals hopes already long gone by that stage, the decision was made to build Cole up for 2023 rather than risk him for the sake of a few games last year.
The 25-year-old, who made his playing return in last week's practice-match win over Port Adelaide, is glad he took the cautious approach.
"It's been a long time since I've played an official game of footy, so it was nice to get through unscathed - and good to get a win, too," Cole told reporters on Tuesday.
"I pushed to play the back end of last year and then made a decision with probably five rounds to go it wasn't worth it.
"I just pulled back a bit and continued with the straight-line running until probably three weeks into the off-season, and it's been a steady build since then.
"I've just been doing the same program as all the boys after that, so it was probably the right decision in the end."
When Cole first injured himself in the lead-up to a pre-season game last year he didn't think much of it.
"It was the Tuesday (training session), the last 30 seconds, a bit of an innocuous one too," he said.
"I think I just went over on (the ankle). I didn't think it was much. It thought I'd play again in a couple of weeks, but it ended up being worse than that.
"It was damage to my cartilage and required surgery."
Cole's setback was a precursor to one of the club's worst ever injury runs.
The mass casualties resulted in West Coast's worst ever season - a 2-20 campaign.
But given that most of the club's star players are now back fit and firing, there are hopes West Coast could give the top eight a nudge this year.
With veteran midfielders Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo set to spend more time in defence this year, players like Cole face stiff competition to keep their spot.
Alex Witherden, Josh Rotham, Harry Edwards and Brady Hough are among the other defenders who will be fighting for berths.
Cole, who has also been training on the wing, is embracing the competition for spots and looking forward to marking the likes of Izak Rankine in Friday's pre-season clash with Adelaide in Perth.