NRL: Ropati sees silver lining in rehab

By Kris Shannon

Any athlete would curse their luck if they suffered the sort of injury run Jerome Ropati has recently encountered. Photo / Getty Images.
Any athlete would curse their luck if they suffered the sort of injury run Jerome Ropati has recently encountered. Photo / Getty Images.

Any athlete would curse their luck if they suffered the sort of injury run Jerome Ropati has recently encountered - but Ropati has found the silver lining.

After missing most of the Warriors' run to the grand final in 2011 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Ropati sustained a cruel blow last season when he dislocated the same knee.

When the injury proved worse than first thought and Ropati required season-ending surgery, he would have been forgiven for wondering if it was all worth it.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself after the second blow, however, Ropati looked on the bright side - the lengthy recovery from the ACL tear may have been an ordeal but it made the 27-year-old something of an expert on rehabilitating the joint.

Armed with his new-found knowledge, Ropati is determined to return to the NRL and thinks he can even hasten his recovery by learning from his past mistakes.

"I think the good thing is, with the ACL last year, that was the first time I went through that rehab process," Ropati said. "Unfortunately, I'm going through it for a second time, but I've learnt a lot from what I did back then and I can rectify a few areas.

"I've learnt a lot about how the knee copes and how much to push it. Hopefully that will get me back two or three weeks earlier."

The veteran has a personal timetable of January for a return to full training, and said the knee was feeling better with every session of rehab.

"I'm the only guy who'll probably know when I'm going to come back - the coaching staff have an idea," he said. "It's feeling good. It's not 100 per cent but it's certainly improving every day. I'm feeling more confident on it every day."

That confidence is key for Ropati as he keeps his spirits high while undergoing his second major rehabilitation in as many seasons. While admitting he still harbours concerns over the potential ramifications of a setback, Ropati said he has never contemplating pulling the pin on his career in league.

"No, not really. Obviously when I injured it, I thought it was the ACL, and thoughts ran through my head about going through the process again. But Stu Walsh, the surgeon, says it's a lot better injury, I can recover a lot better and a lot faster. I've just taken that on board and I've just worked hard ever since."

While his teammates are being put through their paces in the first week of pre-season training, Ropati has been forced to watch on while he completes his own work.

His current task is to increase the tone in the muscles surrounding the joint, with a period of inactivity leaving the leg significantly weaker than his right. Following that, he will progress into strength and agility training to stabilise the area before he is given the green light to resume full duty.

Despite the gruelling routines the Warriors are currently enduring as the club's new strength and conditioning department attempt to get the players fitter than ever before, Ropati said there was no hint of relief at missing out on such punishment.

"You never enjoy it as a footy player, you never like being on the side when the guys are working hard. You want to be in there working with them. It's harder to watch than it is to do it. But the guys are pushing themselves hard, their attitudes are great and that's pleasing to see."

- APNZ

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