NRL: Ropati finds game days tough

By Michael Brown

Jerome Ropati won't be seen on a park for the rest of 2012 after dislocating his kneecap and tearing his patella tendon nearly three weeks ago. Photo / Getty Images.
Jerome Ropati won't be seen on a park for the rest of 2012 after dislocating his kneecap and tearing his patella tendon nearly three weeks ago. Photo / Getty Images.

Most professional sportsmen look forward to game day.

For Jerome Ropati, it's the most difficult day of the week. He hasn't played much over the past two years and he won't be seen on a park for the rest of 2012 after dislocating his kneecap and tearing his patella tendon nearly three weeks ago.

Injuries are part of rugby league but, for Ropati, they have almost become a way of life. His medical records are longer than Parramatta's losing streak.

This year he missed games with ankle and hamstring injuries before his season-ending knee injury and that came on the back of the serious knee injury that restricted him to just three games last year and the shoulder infection that ended his 2010 season.

By any measure, Ropati is damaged goods and knows better than anyone he needs to enjoy a lengthy period on the field if he is to prolong his playing career. Warriors coach Brian McClennan said he wanted Ropati to end his playing days at Mt Smart Stadium but another serious injury to Ropati could see it ended for him.

He's still only 27 but has played only 138 games across a 10-year NRL career, meaning he has missed on average 10 games a season with injury.

"It's more difficult to accept than last time," Ropati said of his latest major injury. "Part of me is over it but the other part is still disappointed and it's hard to watch games at the moment. But it is what it is.

"I have a lot of things that are pretty important to me. My faith is a big part of that and I think that's what is keeping me together. I am going to cope. What is going to be hard is every time I look on the field is knowing I could be competing."

Ropati had been doing that well in patches this year. Once he overcame the niggly injuries, he was starting to recapture the sort of form he was capable of and it prompted the club to offer him a one-year contract extension. The timing was prescient considering he signed it the week before his patella injury.

Initially Ropati thought he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament again and, having done it last year, knew what it meant. Part of him didn't have the energy to come back again, in much the same way Brent Tate said he couldn't face another comeback from his third knee reconstruction. The former Warriors centre did and recently made his State of Origin return for Queensland.

"I had similar thoughts [to Tate] because I thought I had done the ACL," Ropati said. "That was something that took me so long to get back from. I thought, 'I don't know if I will ever recover'. When I found it wasn't an ACL but was the patella, that changed my mind a bit. I have a chance to get it back to strength and push for another season.

"Injuries are a fact of life but I don't know why I get more than most. To be honest, I'm in a better position than many people who are not in this career. I can't really complain. The best thing I can do is concentrate on getting back on that field as best I can do and trust it's going to get me through."

- APNZ

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