PAT MCGINNITY was setting himself for a round-one debut this season, but a wretched run with injury forced the popular Eagle to wait until round 15.
In his second season with the club, the tenacious 20-year-old boasts an injury record that makes his debut last week all the more remarkable.
Broken ribs, a broken thumb, glandular fever and that broken jaw from the 2009 NAB Cup, all built pressure on the Claremont youngster – pressure that was finally relieved against St Kilda.
"It was really exciting to play. I was just happy to get an opportunity and try and do what the coaches tell me to do," McGinnity told westcoasteagles.com.au.
"It's a little bit of pressure off my back I guess, just because I was waiting so long for it to happen."
McGinnity, who backed up his debut with a solid performance against Port Adelaide on Sunday, was at the centre of a frenzied debate during the 2009 pre-season.
Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell had been found guilty of rough conduct after a heavy bump that broke the unsuspecting Eagle's jaw, sparking fears that the hip-and-shoulder had no place in the modern game.
Maxwell was cleared, and the hip-and-shoulder lives, but what was a passing storm for the AFL was one that ripped through the heart of McGinnity's season.
"It was pretty tough, just because I'd got myself into a position with my body, my weight and my fitness where I wanted to be – then it was taken away," McGinnity said.
"I've never actually had a proper full pre-season and I pretty much did before that happened, but I lost a lot of fitness through the broken jaw.
"I was setting myself to play round one, or as close to round one. I never thought I wouldn't play this season, but it definitely set me back a long way – not just in terms of the injury, but confidence comes into it."
McGinnity said he was happy to debut against the feared Saints last week: "If you can go out there and get a couple of kicks against the best side then it's a good way to start."
Steven Baker was his opponent for most of the night, while he also ran with star midfielders Lenny Hayes and Luke Ball.
Key Port Adelaide midfielder Danyle Pearce unwillingly wore McGinnity on Sunday and it appears the young Eagle is being groomed for a future as a tagger.
"I think in the long term maybe [I'll be] a midfield tagger, but at the moment I'm sort of playing half-forward and trying to keep as much pressure on their defenders when the ball gets in our forward 50."
Midfield coach Scott Burns is a player McGinnity moulded himself on as a Claremont junior and he said the opportunity to work with the former Collingwood captain had been great.
"I do my stoppage tape with him and then during the week I'm always doing handball work with him and working through stoppages," McGinnity said.
"He was a player I looked up to and it's just exciting to be able to get advice off him."