I recently interviewed All Black Sam Cane for a story to be published later this week about his return to rugby from a broken neck, among other things, and it really struck me just how hard something like that must be to come back from.
I have never been close to being a professional athlete so can only imagine what that sort of rehabilitation period must be like.
I pulled a hamstring playing football once and it drove me crazy not being able to play for a few weeks. Imagine how it must feel for the ultra-competitive professional athlete such as Sam Cane. At the top of his game with a World Cup on the horizon one minute, in a hospital bed in a neck brace the next.
Cane suffered a neck break during a test in South Africa last October , meaning a race against time to find his form and fitness for this year's World Cup.
He spent the next six months on the sidelines, forced to watch the rest of the All Blacks tour and then his Chiefs teammates struggle early on in the Super Rugby season. It must've been torture for one of the game's great leaders and someone so passionate about the sport.
He kept his head up and made his much-anticipated return to the field for the Chiefs against the Blues last month and has since starred in wins over the Reds and Crusaders.
Physically, the return to action was tough, but just think about the mental demons he had to vanquish to get to this point. Probably Cane's most valuable asset is his willingness to put his head in dark places and do the dirty work many others will not.
The fact that he has so quickly embraced the contact and physicality of rugby and is back playing close to his best again speaks volumes of the character of the man.
After suffering a broken neck, there had to have been some trepidation about getting back out there. I loosely relate it to something like mountain biking - you have a nasty crash and the next few times you ride that trail you are going to be very cautious; some may never ride it again.
If Cane's injury had been slightly more severe or in a different part of his neck, he might never have walked again. The fact that he has so quickly embraced the contact and physicality of rugby and is back playing close to his best again speaks volumes of the character of the man.
The Chiefs have one last chance, against the Rebels this weekend, to qualify for the Super Rugby playoffs. Beyond that, you would suspect Cane has done enough to prove he is ready for the World Cup with the All Blacks.
Mouth-watering State of Origin match-ups
First Targa Rally experience a wild ride
I can't help but feel this particular fairy tale has only just begun.