AGAINST THE ODDS: Recruit fit and firing after cancer battle

Tom Sutherland, pictured while playing for Maryborough Castlemaine club Talbot, has returned to Otway Districts in 2016.

Tom Sutherland, pictured while playing for Maryborough Castlemaine club Talbot, has returned to Otway Districts in 2016.

TOM SUTHERLAND will create a new chapter in his remarkable story of cancer survival when he pulls on the boots with Otway Districts this football season.

The former Demon spent the past two seasons with Talbot in the Maryborough Castlemaine district league, notching up 32 senior games.

He returns to the Gellibrand-based club to play alongside brother Stewart and incoming Otway Districts coach and close mate Tom Mullane-Grant in a massive boost for the Demons.

Sutherland endured a battle with cancer after he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012.

But the strongly-built athlete defied the odds and returned to the football field, while also spending two cricket seasons with Colac.

Mullane-Grant said Sutherland was in peak physical condition ahead of the football season and could play a key role across the ground, but mainly in defence for the Demons.

“He’s back to full health and he is fully fit,” Mullane-Grant said.

“He really loves his fitness now and he’s going from strength to strength, so touch wood everything stays that way.

“He might swing at either end of the ground depending on where we need him,” he said.

“But early days we’ll be starting him as a key defender and he might even chop out in the ruck or up forward if required.”

Mullane-Grant said he was thrilled to secure the services of Sutherland, who was eager to pull on the red-and-blue jumper with his brother Stewart at their home club.

“He’s a great person to have at the club and all the boys know him and respect him,” he said.

“Having the opportunity to come back and play with Stew was his driving force and hopefully we can sing the song a few times together.

“We’ve been mates for close to 10 years now from our Ballarat uni days.”

The Demons bolstered their list with Mullane-Grant and his former Bannockburn teammate Zach Hickleton, who joined the club as a playing-assistant coach.

Mullane-Grant said the Sutherland brothers added much-needed on-field leadership to a young Otway Districts playing group.

He said the younger Sutherland, Stewart, who returned to the club after a season with the Colac Tigers in the GFL in 2014 but failed to play a game in 2015 due to injury, was like a new recruit.

“I think everyone around Colac knows Stewie,” Mullane-Grant said.

“If ever there’s a guy you need in your engine room it’s going to be him, he’s not only got great skills but he’s so tough and leads by example.

“He’s just a gem to have back at the club and I think he’ll be spurred on and inspired to have Tommy back at the club and in the same team.

“It’s really big for us to have the two Sutherland boys back at the club.”

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