MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Paddy McCartin of the Saints gestures after missing a shot on goal during the round 10 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the St Kilda Saints at Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 26, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

This time last year, Paddy McCartin feared he’d never play football again.

The 22-year-old forward, who’d previously suffered seven concussions since 2014, divulged on a “bleak” time and a wavering future that followed from a sickening head knock in the VFL last June.

After repeated concussions, the young star had played just five games in 2017 – but after his June injury, he was fated not to play again until 2018.

“This time last year was a pretty tough time,” McCartin told afl.com.au. 

“I didn’t even really know if I was going to be playing again, to be honest. There was a lot of water to go under the bridge before I even pulled the boots on again, really.”

The key forward said the impression given to him by doctors led him to believe he’d never take to the field again.

It took the eventual approval from doctors to keep playing and donning a helmet, to finally get the forward back on the field; following on from an ultimatum from coach Alan Richardson

But McCartin is confident his career is now headed in the right direction, despite media scrutiny. Twelve months on, he’s played a dozen games and said the difference in his game could not be greater.

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“I don’t really take any notice of [scrutiny] to be honest. That might sound like a bit of a cliché potentially, because I know there are a lot of people who do take notice of it, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin and the effort that I’m putting in,” he said.

“To say I’m enjoying my footy would be an understatement. I’m absolutely loving it because there was a bit of a time last year where the future probably wasn’t looking too bright, to be honest.

“I’m playing and they’re commentating – that’s their job and I’ve got my job.

McCartin’s “very conservative” treatment meant he would return to the senior side for a clash against Richmond donning new headwear.

“I’ve put the helmet on now, which took me a little bit to get used to, and I wasn’t too keen on it”, he said.

“I’ve chucked it on and I’ve actually really enjoyed it. It probably took me a couple of training sessions to get used to but now I hardly notice it at all.”

Continuity in the game is what McCartin credits to be providing a new-found confidence that has seen him boot four goals in St Kilda’s consecutive wins in recent weeks.

He discussed the plight of his teammates helped him gain perspective; Dylan Roberton, battling a heart condition, helped McCartin realign his focus.

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“The more you play, the more confident you get,” he explained.

“I’m just really happy to be playing as much footy as I can.

“I’m really keen to push forward this year and hopefully the last eight rounds of the year we can take some scalps, because we haven’t really got anything to lose. We’ll just go out there and give it a crack.”