Making up for lost time
Roosters star Luke Keary suffered a serious knee injury just two rounds into the 2021 season leaving him on the sidelines along with several other big names. He was proud of how they fought into the finals and is ready to make an impact after recovery.
They’re the words you never want to hear as a footy player – “torn ACL”. That means “season over”. And when it happens in round two, you’re left with a hollow feeling.
Last year was pretty much a write-off for me but I’ve never been more proud to be a Rooster with the way the team overcame all the adversity to still make the finals and give it a good shake.
It was late in the game against Souths when I was just chasing the ball and stepped off the leg and felt it go. It was non-contact, so I knew straight away.
This might sound strange but when it happened ACL, I didn’t get too down. I just tried to get on with it as best as I could.
I wouldn’t say I was devastated, there’s nothing you can do about it once it’s done.
You train for four or five months and you get to play two games and it’s all over but I’ve come to terms with injuries being part of the game. We all go through it.
It was a weird year. We lost a lot of players, our two captains, Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend to early retirement, and our most experienced player in Brett Morris, so it was always going to be hard, but the boys were brave and I thought we had a really good year.
View this post on Instagram
The fact that we made it to the second week of the finals was outstanding, especially with Lindsay Collins also tearing his ACL early in the season, Josh Morris missing a lot of time and Joseph Suaalii then having his rookie year cut short.
It was cool to watch the way the others dug in and fought.
I stayed in Sydney for rehab and the boys were up in the Sunshine Coast for the back half of the season. To watch it from afar, it made me proud to be part of the club but I didn’t expect anything less to be honest.
I feel like that group, the coaching staff, that’s what they expect and anything less than that would have been unacceptable. All the boys who look back on that season don’t look back on it as a failure. The character they showed made it a successful year for the club.
The rehab process
Once it’s confirmed you’ve got the dreaded torn ACL, you get booked in for surgery and away you go. It’s a long process.
I did my other one when I was 17. I’m not sure if it’s better to have surgery on each knee or do your ACL on the same one twice.
We waited until the swelling went down, it was about 10 days later. The surgery is not too complicated and thankfully, mine didn’t uncover any other problems in my knee. Sometimes they find a few things in there that shouldn’t be in there.
It was just a straight repair, which is always nice to hear when you wake up.
After that I was straight back into training as quickly as possible, getting the knee moving to try and stop as much muscle waste as possible.
I went through about 8-12 weeks of not moving around much and just doing physio. You’re learning how to mechanically walk around and then put weight on it, learn how to land on the ground again.
You’ve just got to teach your muscles and bones and ligaments and tendons how to take weight again. It’s a slow process.
View this post on Instagram
It was about that time when the team had to move to Queensland because the competition got relocated. I would have much preferred if I was the only one on the long-term injured list but I had Brett Morris, Billy Smith, Joseph Suaalii and Lindsay Collins with me. We all went in and did rehab together for four or five months together, which was a bit of a silver lining having a crew going through it all together.
It was a tough time for general society when everybody was locked down so it was great to have the chance to still be able to go to work, bounce off each other and help each other through.
When my left knee was strong enough, I had an ankle clean-out operation on my right leg. I’d had a big few years leading into last season with the Roosters and played a lot of games because we’ve been pretty successful.
It’s not ideal missing the season but it’s given me a bit of a freshen-up and hopefully I can get back to my best for the last few years of my career.
The new-look Roosters
It’s a bit of a changing of the guard. We’ve lost a few of the legends of the club in Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Mitch Aubusson and Brett Morris the past couple of years but we’ve still got a lot of the same faces who were there through those successful years when we won the comp in 2018 and ‘19.
View this post on Instagram
It will be such an advantage for us this year that a lot of those kids from last year had to step up and play more than they probably otherwise would have.
We were forced to blood a few people that wouldn’t have played as early. We are going to see the benefits of that this year. Also, people like Drew Hutchison and Adam Keighran hadn’t really found a permanent spot before last season but now they’re legitimate first-graders.
We trust them. We’re prepared to throw them into big games.
Joseph Suaalii got five games in last year before he hurt his foot and I couldn’t be more impressed.
I got to spend a lot of time with him in the rehab crew and you don’t come across many 18-year-old kids like him as far as professionalism, maturity and how highly talented he is.
Once everyone sees him come on, they’ll understand why people have been talking him up for a few years.
He’s very lucky because he’s got a very good family, they’ve grounded him well. You can tell he’s a family kid – it comes first, footy comes second. He’s a special person, a special player.
Sam Walker got to play 20 games last year when he may have only got a handful if we didn’t have so many injuries and I’m excited about playing alongside him in the halves.
We know he’s going to be the long-term halfback for the next 10 years, hopefully, and I don’t think the old second-year syndrome will be a problem.
He knows he’s going to get targeted a little bit and he’s prepared to handle it. Last year was tough because he’s so young but he’s had a full season and another full pre-season so he will be so much better for the run.
Connor Watson’s signing has gone under the radar a little bit but he’s going to be such an asset for us. I love having him back, he’s one of the best in the competition when you talk about pure football players who can slot in anywhere.
I got to play with him in 2017 and I’m very happy he’s back. He’s going to be one of the first guys picked and start a lot of games for us, he’s not the kind of person who cares about cementing a position, he’s just a team guy.
Trent Robinson has been his same old self at training this off-season. He’s always on, he knows the path he wants to take. He takes us on a journey and grounds the ball really well to set the season up.
He’s done a terrific job with all our young players bringing them up to speed.
It’s a big year for the club and it’s going to be a massive one for rugby league with the World Cup at the end of the season. I’d love to get back into rep footy at some stage but I honestly haven’t even thought about it, I just want to get back on the field and not have any more injuries.
I’m not going to play in the trials but I’m definitely playing round one against the Knights at the SCG on March 12. It will be just under 12 months since my last game, I can’t wait.