The heartbreaking fight GWS star kept secret
FOR the entire pre-season the GWS Giants knew they'd discovered a secret weapon, but didn't know his secret.
Football is famous for its team culture but for four months the Giants' mature-age draftee Zac Langdon had been fighting his most haunting challenge away from the dressing room.
The Giants knew the 22-year-old small forward had uprooted his life and moved all the way across the country, but unbeknown to teammates, Langdon was also wrestling with the extreme personal anguish of his young partner battling cancer.
But finally, on the eve of round one, he was able to stand up in front of his peers and reveal that girlfriend Eli Suleska, 21, had beaten her Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Langdon broke down in tears as his teammates embraced him.
Five minutes later, he was told he would make his AFL debut.
This is the emotion-charged journey of one of the driving forces behind the Giants' stunning season revival. A love story to conquer all.
"You don't realise what you've got until something like that happens," Langdon told Fox Sports presenter Neroli Meadows in a moving interview to air on Wednesday night on Fox Footy's On the Mark.
"I was pretty nervous going to training that day (when Eli's results came through).
"Once she called me I knew straight away by the tone of her voice. She told me she was all clear and I was just jumping up and down.
"I had told (coach) Leon (Cameron) and the welfare managers, just for peace of mind that if anything was to happen to Eli, that she was still number one to me and I'd have to head back home. But I tried to keep most of it quiet.
"After she got the all-clear I spoke to Leon and asked if I could let the boys know.
"I couldn't believe the response from the boys, they were amazing. They just got around me straight away and ... about five minutes after Leon told me I was going to debut for round one.
"I went from crying telling the story to hearing that. It was a huge day. I still can't believe I'm playing AFL."
Langdon and Suleska grew up high school sweethearts in the tiny mining town of Dampier in Western Australia's Pilbara region, 18 hours' drive from Perth.
Now, after going to hell and back, they're reunited again in Sydney.
Langdon praised Eli for her toughness and said he would be "forever grateful" for her sacrifices in backing his football dream.
In the couple's interview on Fox Footy, Eli opens up on the heartbreaking moment when she learned of her crushing diagnosis last year and how she bravely urged Langdon to not withdraw from the AFL draft despite the four rounds of chemotherapy she was about to undergo.
Eli proudly sat at Langdon's side on draft night and - despite his mixed emotions upon learning he was moving away from her to Sydney - and she never once thought of her own predicament.
"I had a bit of shoulder pain and had a bunch of scans and they ended up telling me I had a tumour in my chest between my heart and my lung. It was very hard," Eli told Meadows' On The Mark.
"They took a big chunk out of it and … it was Hodkinson's lymphoma.
"I didn't want him to pull out of (the draft). I knew I was going to be OK and I just said to him an opportunity like this isn't going to come again considering his age. I wasn't going to let that happen."
*Watch the interview on On The Mark, Fox Footy at 8.30pm on Wednesday night