Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

NRL: Injury-prone Henry far from alone

Warriors fans feared the worst when Ben Henry suffered a knee injury against the Tigers. Photo / Getty
Warriors fans feared the worst when Ben Henry suffered a knee injury against the Tigers. Photo / Getty

Warriors fans feared the worst when utility Ben Henry went down with yet another left knee injury. Could the 24-year-old utility's career be over before it had really started?

After returning from two reconstructions in the past three years, Henry was assisted off Campbelltown on Saturday after suffering a broken kneecap when Wests Tigers prop Tim Grant fell on him. Henry looked in a state of shock.

He will be out for at least three months, having already spent nearly two years in rehabilitation mode, but has expressed his determination to resume his career.

"I've had to overcome a lot in my life and this could just be another hurdle that I'll overcome," said Henry, among the most respected and reliable players to emerge from the Warriors development system.

While Henry's situation may seem bad, other NRL players have come back from far worse injury runs. The most famous is the one endured by the Australian braveheart Brent Tate, while the former Kiwis captain Benji Marshall had to fight past a stack of major shoulder problems.

And if Henry is looking for inspiration from closer to home in desperate times, a Warriors legend offers plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.

Awen Guttenbeil, the former backrow forward who is now a commentator, played just 32 matches in his first five seasons after a horror injury run before becoming a Warriors mainstay with 138 appearances over the next six years.

Guttenbeil told the Herald yesterday that he inherited loose ligaments which caused some of his problems. A plan was devised in which he trained with the team just once a week and from there on, his career took off. He also played 10 tests for the Kiwis and represented Tonga.

Guttenbeil told the Herald: "It was horrible to see what happened to Ben but it is just bad luck in his case You need a belief that you will get through it and I'm sure Ben will. He's already shown how strong he is by what he's been through.

"Playing for the Kiwis had always been my goal since I was a kid. That gave me the drive and ambition. I had a blind faith that one day I would get there. It gave me the strength to get around all the obstacles.

"I was riding solo so I had to really believe that I was as good if not better than all the players who could train five days a week. You have to win the battle with your mind first."

Many people believed Marshall's career was doomed so bad were his shoulder problems while Tate is a league miracle. He not only survived a shocking injury toll, but remained one of the most combative players in the representative and NRL arenas. His book Iron Will described the agonies he went through.

He admitted to hating the game at times, especially when his neck injury was causing so many problems. His mother pleaded with him to retire after he suffered a broken jaw.

"I hate to think what mum and my wife, Lani, have gone through," he wrote. "I almost feel sick in the stomach, thinking what I put myself through. I feel sad sometimes."

BRENT TATE (Australia, Queensland, Broncos, Warriors, Cowboys)
Career: 2001 - 2014. Tests: 26. State of Origin: 23. NRL: 229.
4 knee reconstructions
9 ankle operations
2 knee arthroscopies
Shoulder, groin and throat surgery.
Broken jaw

From 2005, played with a neck brace after suffering career-threatening whiplash.

Tate: "Part of the reason I kept going was, simply I loved playing footy. Part of it was this was all I knew. It was putting food on the table...I saw this as a test of my character."

BENJI MARSHALL (Kiwis, Tigers, Dragons, Blues rugby)
Career: 2003 -. Tests: 27. NRL: 240. Super Rugby: 6.
2 left shoulder dislocations requiring reconstruction in 2004
4 right shoulder operations including full reconstruction in late 2008 involving bone graft.
cheekbone fracture
torn knee ligament

From 2004 - 2009 Marshall missed 49 matches. In 2010 he received a Wests Tigers Ironman award for playing in every NRL game that season.

AWEN GUTTENBEIL (Kiwis, Tonga, Warriors, Castleford)
Career: Tests: 13. NRL: 170. Super League: 20.
2 shoulder reconstructions
knee reconstruction
broken leg
ankle reconstruction
2 hernia operations
2 bone spur operations

Guttenbeil: "I worked out that in the first five seasons, I spent more time under general anaesthetic than I did on the football field."

- NZ Herald

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