West Coast star Elliot Yeo savored the chance to make his anticipated AFL return as a defender, but the gun onballer is already plotting his path back to the midfield as he builds fitness.
After just two games this season because of a serious calf tear, concussion and health and safety protocols, Yeo was eased back to action against Geelong last Saturday in a half-back role and flourished.
Finishing with 22 disposals and a career-best 11 rebound 50s, it was a throwback to the football the 28-year-old played in 2017 when he was selected at half-back in the Therabody AFL All-Australian team.
The plan now for Yeo is to filter through the midfield gradually as his fitness builds, and he is hopeful he can return soon to being the midfield bull West Coast has missed this season.
“I loved the role, and I knew that coming off two years of hard, inconsistent pre-seasons with injuries that it hasn’t been an ideal preparation,” Yeo told AFL.com.au.
“It’s hard enough to play midfield as it is and to keep up with the transition aspect of the game when you’re fully fit, let alone after being in and out with injury and trying to play catch-up.
“Now it’s just about building that tank up and getting to a point where I’m feeling confident that I can get through all those minutes and not have any issues, but there are aspirations to get in there.”
Yeo was among the best afield against Geelong in a welcome sight for the Eagles, who benefited greatly from his penetrating kick and ability to rebound aggressively off half-back.
The premiership star said he had felt rusty and took time to adjust to the pace of what was a frantic match at times, but there were positive signs with his form after a frustrating build.
After getting close to completing a full pre-season and feeling like a more mature and resilient footballer after two years ruined by osteitis pubis, Yeo suffered a calf injury in February.
He played his first game for the season in round five but suffered concussion in round six before a stint in health and safety protocols, with the interruptions convincing the Eagles to reintegrate him through the WAFL.
The one-week suspension he earned there for striking after his legs were taken out in an aerial contest was symptomatic of the constant hurdles faced for a third straight season.
“It’s been frustrating, very frustrating,” Yeo said of his 2022.
“I’m not a rehabber, that’s for sure, especially after two years of running around chasing that white line on the second oval.
“I love football and I want to be out there as much as I can, so it has been frustrating, but I’m really excited that I’m back out there now and hopefully the plan is to get through the rest of the season and go from there.”