Rabbitohs centre Aaron Gray told our Members last week how he has overcome injuries and highlights both the physical and mental challenges he has faced along the way.
Last year, I hurt my knee in the City vs Country Origin game. I did it in the first half after my second try so I knew I hurt my knee but I didn’t know how bad it was so I played the whole second half with a ruptured LCL.
I got scans afterwards and found out that I had ruptured it and would miss six weeks but it was pretty devastating especially after playing pretty well in the City Origin game. It was really good for my confidence and I thought if I didn’t get injured I would have been in great form for the rest of the whole year at Souths and I could have provided a lot more but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.
It was awesome to come back from injury and to come back bigger, better and stronger is always something that I wanted to do. We struggled during the middle of the season but to finish the back end of the year off so strongly and for the boys to come together so well really helped. I was looking forward to doing it all again this year but unfortunately my knee didn’t allow me.
In preseason I think I completed about 85% of training which I had never ever done before. I had never done a full preseason like that so I was the fittest, fastest, and strongest in what was my first full preseason in first grade and I was ready to fire and have the best year of my life.
I came off the bench and ran straight on to the field and about 10 seconds in I had my first run. I fended one of the young kids from Canberra and his body landed on the outside of my leg and buckled my knee and ruptured my medial ligament.
I personally knew straight away. I’ve had a few problems with my knees so I can tell when something is wrong and I pretty much hit the nail on the head when I came off and I told them it was my medial. It’s not a good feeling that’s for sure. I felt like crying when I came off the field. My first thought was that I was pretty angry, then reality set in and I just wanted to sit down and cry but I have had a few injuries before and knew I could get over them and come back bigger, better, faster, stronger.
After the game in the sheds, all the boys were around but I felt pretty numb. I had put in all this work in preseason for three months and to go out there in your first run… It’s pretty disappointing to get injured and it goes to waste pretty much, all that training you had done in the preseason so it’s a pretty crappy feeling to be honest.
Mentally going into rehab, from experience you’ve just got to take your mind away from footy for a bit while you are waiting to get your surgery, get your surgery done, and even then I don’t even think about footy. I just try and keep busy outside of footy for a week while I am at home recovering and then come in with an open mindset and really look forward to getting better and setting goals. That’s the one thing I did, was really set some goals for this time around because I know how hard it can be mentally when you have so much time on your hands. I was at home cooking and doing all this kind of stuff that I hadn’t done before just to keep myself busy then four weeks after that I set some more goals so I could keep track of my progress and either tick off my goals or know where I need to keep improving in.
My team mates are always supporting me but you do feel a little bit isolated just doing the rehab. You have the rehab crew. There is me, Jack Gosiewski and Connor Tracey and we had Brett Greinke, so we are pretty much with each other every day at training, getting through the training, rehab and physio together so those are the boys that you stick with the most because they are in the same boat as you.
Everyone else around me play a massive part in my rehab because they know how down you can get and how down I have got in the past. My family and partner, Tiana, have especially played a huge part in picking me back up. A few of my mates also stayed over with me for the first week after surgery and just kept me busy and my mind occupied. That helped me really get through it.
My rehab is going a lot better than what I first thought. I was back running after about a month or five weeks, something like that, so I was doing my rehab to the best of my ability but lately it’s been a little bit slow. Once you get over that half way mark it’s downhill and you are outside with the ball in your hand and doing a bit of running so you know you’re not too far off and in hindsight the next half is nothing. It goes pretty quick so you’ve just got to keep focused and keep your end goal in sight.
Dealing with injuries, it’s not easy, especially as a young kid coming through. All you want to do is play first grade so it can mess with your head a little bit but you’ve just got to stay positive, set goals, short term and long term so you can keep a track of how you are going.
You always look back and see that it’s hard but you’ve come this far and you’ve got this far to go so it’s just keeping in a positive mindset and keeping busy and doing the rehab to the best of your ability because the better you do your rehab the quicker you’ll be back.
In the short term, I will be looking to get back in the best physical form I can be and get my body in the best shape I can be for when I come back in the next month or so. In the long term, I’m just going to try and pick up where I left off last year. I want to get back into my centre spot and make it mine. There will be no more injuries and I want to finish off the year really strongly and contribute everything I can to the team.