Bodhi Uwland's rise over the past few years has been incredible.

Following a string of eye-catching VFL performances in 2021, Gold Coast drafted its Academy graduate already in the knowledge he had stress fractures in his back.

Little did they, or he, know how long the road to recovery would be.

"Coming in, you want to make an impression and I wasn't even able to get on the field to handball or kick," Uwland told

"It was a very tough initial 12 months as an AFL footballer, not being able to do much but sit on the stationary bike.

"I learnt a lot about myself in terms of my mental resilience and how hard I could push myself in other ways besides footy.

"I was able to learn about education, nutrition, injury prevention and also get strong in the gym, which was another benefit of being in rehab. I think that's set me up for where I am now, being able to play on bigger bodies."

Uwland spent 23-plus hours each day in the cumbersome back brace. The only time he could take it off was to shower.

That continued for nine months, wiping out his entire 2022 season.

"The first few weeks, sleeping, it was a nightmare really," he said.

"To go with the pain of the stress fractures, then also the mental battle of having to wear this brace to get it right.

"I couldn't get on the field to kick or handball. I was at the point where I was just juggling footys to keep my co-ordination good.

"Doing my first run back was amazing. It was just over 12 months since I'd run or kicked a footy."

Uwland spent months on the stationary bike – his longest ride staring at a screen was 115km - building his aerobic fitness to launch into a strong pre-season ahead of 2023.

He played three games last year and has jumped about three levels in 2024.

Coach Damien Hardwick said during the pre-season Uwland reminded him of the younger, playing version of himself.

The 20-year-old played the first six games this season, was dropped, and came back a better player, earning a Telstra AFL Rising Star nomination.

He is fierce at the contest and is now backing himself to intercept and create with ball in hand.

This was never better exemplified than in the dying stages of Gold Coast's recent win over Collingwood where he gathered the ball in traffic, brushed aside Scott Pendlebury and delivered a perfect pass for Ben Long to kick the go-ahead goal.

"I came back from being dropped and had a more confident mindset that I could dominate certain areas of the game," he said.

"Getting dropped was a blessing in disguise and I was able to come back stronger."

Whether it's back stress fractures or being dropped, nothing has slowed Uwland down during the past three years, and now he has a longer runway to prove he belongs at the top level.