AFTER A session in which he expects some of his teammates to have clocked up distances nearing 16-17 kilometres, Alex Mirkov admits he’s pretty fatigued walking in for his scheduled interview with Carlton Media.
“Sorry if I don’t give you much” is the comment as he ducks, literally, into the room.
Yet when the interview begins, he’s keen to convey the overriding emotion he’s feeling at the present time. It’s not one of exhaustion — but rather, gratitude.
Mirkov last spoke to Carlton Media nearly one year to the day, where he outlined his objectives for the 2023 campaign and his support of the Old Dark Navy Blues growing up.
Now, 12 months on, he speaks not of his support for the Club, but rather the Club’s support for him.
It was in May last year when there was the discovery of a leaking aortic valve in Mirkov’s heart, prompting the need for surgery. From there, the waiting game began, in what he described as “a pretty tough time”.
It was eight weeks before Mirkov underwent the operation on 1 August courtesy of Peter Skillington. “We waited for the best person for the job, shoutout to him.”
He recounts that the surgery went for “about six or seven hours”, spending a few days in the ICU and then another week and a bit in the ward. It was the start of a patient, long road back for Mirkov.
But not once did he feel like he was going it alone.
As Carlton embarked on a run towards September where the catch cry was all about being ‘Stronger Together’, Mirkov lived it.
“All the boys got around me. They sent me a video when I was in hospital, ‘Vossy’ came in to visit, 10 or so of the boys came through.
“The support from the Club has been unreal.”
Mirkov looks back on a three-month span where he was doing “absolutely nothing”. The best way he felt as though the time could pass as quickly as possible was staying connected with his mates, his teammates.
He did everything he could do at the time to stay occupied, and he largely did that through the footy club. As he underwent his recovery, he’d go to games, rally around the playing group at training and pop into team meetings where possible, while he even made the trip to the Gabba for the preliminary final.
And after a slow and steady approach, Mirkov is pleased to report he now finds himself in a good spot.
Everything - in his words - has gone to plan, as he built his conditioning base at the resumption of pre-season before returning to full training at the turn of the year.
“I was still trying to stay involved as much as I could, just trying to stay connected which was really important at the time. It made it feel a lot quicker than three months.
“The surgeon was talking about keeping the heart rate down. I remember the Melbourne semi final, I was standing next to my girlfriend and she was panicking more about my heart rate than the game because my Apple Watch was spiking when Blake kicked the goal!
“I got a lot of text messages, a lot of calls. I’m appreciative of everyone — my family, my friends, my girlfriend. She had to bear a fair bit of weight from me complaining.
“I can’t complain now. I’m in full training, back in the swing of things. I’m just glad I’m out there with the boys and enjoying myself.”
You can immediately tell that Mirkov has relished being back around his teammates. He’s particularly loving the work of Jesse Motlop so far in pre-season: “for a small guy, he’s pretty hench”.
And while Mirkov’s desires of this time last year still haven’t wavered - he desperately wants to pull on his boyhood Navy Blue one day - he views things from a slightly different vantage point now.
“My initial plan was just getting fit again. I’ve been prioritising my health over the last five months or so, not so much thinking about football but instead making sure I was functioning as a human being,” he says with a nervous laugh to follow.
“A lot of what we do around the Club is about purpose. A lot of my purpose coming into the Club is seizing my opportunity, making the most of my time here. In everything I went through last year, I wake up every morning and see a scar on my chest — it gives me a bit of perspective on everything.
“It feeds into my purpose. Around opportunity, around making the most of it and giving it my best crack. “Time will tell. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out there, get on the MCG at some stage, to get back fit and firing and better than ever.”