Star Magpie is the support act to the real hero

Brodie Grundy is a high-profile All-Australian star of the AFL, playing for one of the biggest teams in the competition.

He is also only the second-most important person in his household of two. Football superstar he may be, hero of this story he is not.

Star Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy with his partner Rachael Wertheim, who is a physio working in hospital emergency and intensive care wards.Credit:AAP

Yet Grundy brings a football sensibility to their living arrangement.

“I just have to play my role,” he said.

For once, football jargon is accurate.

That role is not to fall into the pratfalls of many AFL players and become self-obsessed. His role is to make life easier for Wertheim when she gets home from work because, right now, her work is bloody important. His job might be highly paid, highly scrutinised and high stress, but it is nothing like the stresses Wertheim currently faces in her workplace.

“She does not complain much normally – I am a much bigger whinger and moaner – but last week she came home and just said ‘I need to go for a walk’. She was pretty cooked, so we headed out,” he said.

“It’s the most stress she has ever had. They are just being smashed and there is this climate of fear in there.

“To see her there and for her being around that energy all day is draining.

“I have to play my role and be the one to do the cleaning and making sure things are good when she gets in.”

The incompatibility of Wertheim’s work at this time and Grundy’s was a point of concern.

“I didn’t want to be the one who gets sick and brings it into the club," he said.

“But she said at the hospital they are temperature tested all the time during the day and they have processes in place, it’s about risk management.”

The hospital is desperate to keep its own staff well to keep up the fight in the wards, so there is comfort in the fact they are doing everything they can to keep their people safe.

“Her job made me more aware of what was going on early on because you hear bits and pieces from her about how serious it was before it really got out. I am in my own world as an AFL footballer and she would say, ‘Man, this is going to be a lot worse than you think and last a lot longer than you think’.”

Grundy is dealing with isolation philosophically, yet practically.

The first week he did nothing. He just got his head around what was happening, didn’t train much and tried to adjust at the end of the week when he felt lethargic and moody and realised he needed the exercise to keep him mentally agile and positive. He understood he needed to build a routine and to establish a purpose in each day.

The adjustments have been as much mental as physical. Without football, he is not a footballer. Not being a footballer made him wonder who he is.

“I think for footballers and people whose self-worth and identity is wrapped up in what they do it is hard to be locked away not doing that.

“I am one of those to a degree. I love footy but always do things outside of it as well.

“What this has done is if you have never thought about what you are going to do after footy and what lies ahead, this brings post-football reality right into your face.

“If this does not stop, what are you going to do for the year? You cannot travel to escape.”

For Grundy it meant he added a subject at university so now he will finish his health sciences degree this semester while in isolation. He is planning a graduation ceremony of two. Might even make himself a mortar board.

He is working out what works for him in how much physical training to do to keep fit and at the moment, he reasons that it is keeping fit enough to enjoy what you doing, not smashing himself to maintain match-ready fitness. He expects it will be months before games are back (he might have some inside knowledge on how the problem is going).

“The prospect of playing games through the summer, that is what it is looking like, is really weird but also really cool.”

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