Five years after leading the Western Bulldogs to a breakthrough premiership, Easton Wood still can't quite believe his body's held up for another crack at the AFL's biggest prize.
The 2016 premiership skipper, Wood passed the captaincy baton to Marcus Bontempelli ahead of 2020 - and has spent the past two seasons battling injuries.
He played just 13 games last season and has just 14 to his name this year, with three separate hamstring tears and an ankle injury playing havoc in the middle part of 2021.
But after reeling off seven consecutive games heading into the decider, Wood - and those hamstrings - feel ready to go ahead of next Saturday's grand final.
"It's been quite a, particularly early in the year, really challenging year. I tore three hamstrings this year and then coming back through the VFL, I ruptured my lateral ligaments in an ankle," Wood said.
"At that point, before I got the scan on the ankle, I thought: 'well if this is a break, I'm out for three months and that is probably season over'.
"Going through all these waves of ups and downs, particularly with the third hamstring I did, I'm thinking: 'Alright, is this the writing on the wall. Is it just the body saying I might not be up to it anymore?'
"But thankfully, as I've always done, I've gone back and worked with the physios and the fitness staff and just put the work in and they're hanging in there.
"I can't believe we're playing in another grand final. It's surreal and really special."
When the 32-year-old suffered his third hamstring injury, the Bulldogs' medicos went over his rehabilitation with a "fine-tooth comb" - but didn't change their approach, something he now considers a blessing.
Strangely enough, the moment of relief came when his hamstrings passed the ultimate test.
Wood got left treading water by Charlie Cameron when the Brisbane speedster motored past him for a brilliant goal in their semi-final clash - but the hamstrings held up.
"I got nothing short of 15 messages asking how my hamstrings didn't pop chasing Charlie in that exact clip - my phone blew up," he said.
"That was one of those moments that was full stretch, full speed and, geez, Charlie is something else.
"... But I was very happy for the hamstrings to hold up."
Australian Associated Press