RETIREMENT came far too early for Frank Agostino when a debilitating knee injury forced his hand with East Perth aged just 25, but some time away and some medical advances now see him feeling closer to 100 per cent than he ever thought possible as he resumes his WAFL career with Perth.
Agostino began his WAFL league career with East Perth in 2001 having come right through the ranks and after some good form as an attacking wingman and half-forward, he found his place across half-back and became one of the very best players in the competition.
That saw him become a key player of his beloved East Perth and he was a star in 2006 and 07, and a key factor in the Royals returning to finals action in 2007.
He won the Royals' fairest and best award that year, but in the first semi-final against South Fremantle at Fremantle Oval ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and required a full knee reconstruction.
He came back a little earlier than usual just after the State game in 2008 and then played the early part of the 2009 season as well as he reached his 100-game milestone with East Perth, but the knee never felt right and due to the pain and on medical advice he was forced to retire.
While that was frustrating given he played 103 matches by the age of 25, there was little that could be done and the farewell match was a memorable win over Subiaco at Medibank Stadium.
However, some new techniques to help the cartilage in the knee and some time off where he played and coached at Baldivis, but took it fairly easily, sees the troublesome knee now feel terrific even after a gruelling pre-season at his new club, Perth.
Agostino now returns to WAFL football a rejuvenated character and he is 100 per cent confident his knee will hold up.
"It has freshened me right up the last year and-a-half and I've been able to make the most of some science on my knee, which is great, and I've been having these cartilage injections that soften up the pain a little bit. I've virtually been able to train pain free for the pre-season and that time since I retired at East Perth has certainly helped," Agostino said.
"I've got amazing confidence in it and obviously I say that while touching wood. I have the utmost confidence that the knee can hold up and I wouldn’t have known if it was going to if I hadn’t done this two or three months of training at Perth. I was feeling pretty good last year and now with the work I've done I have no doubt that I can last the year out."
While Agostino is capable of playing up forward, his role in defence where he showed he could match up well on the best centre half-forwards in the league, but even more importantly be the best set up player in the competition is something that could help Perth immensely.
He sees no reason why he can't get back to playing that role as well as he could when he was one of the best players in the WAFL in 2007.
"I'm super confident that I can play that sort of role again. I'm feeling much fitter now and stronger through the years even than those times when I was playing fairly decent footy back then. I'm super confident and what I now need to do is put it all back into play again," he said.
"Hopefully after four or five games I can get back to that level, but I have no doubt that I've done a ton of work so I have no doubts my body can hold up."
Since retiring Agostino might have still been involved in football at Baldivis, it was nowhere near as demanding as a WAFL schedule. As a result, he has since married Ashlee (as of January last year) and is a senior consultant at Fleet Network.
Having time away from WAFL football has refreshed him and now he's ready to get stuck back into it full tilt at his new club, and he can't wait to hit the field again after training well all summer.
"The WAFL schedule is very demanding on your time so the best thing about going back to country footy again was that it allows you spend a bit more time away from footy with your wife and that sort of stuff," Agostino said.
"Then you come back really fresh and that's how I feel now. I'm really fresh and enthusiastic, and I do feel like a new draftee. I'm really looking forward to being part of the Perth footy club at least for the two years that I've signed for."