He's had two false starts. Now, Colin Slade is confident of making it third time lucky. Steve Hepburn catches up with Slade as the Highlanders begin pre-season training.

Colin Slade's past two years have been as memorable as a Police Academy sequel, but the first five-eighths is looking forward, not back.

"I have a lot of self-belief. People probably don't think I would have, but I do. I will get back there and perform again," Slade said.

He has had a horror run in the Highlanders jersey since signing in late 2010.

Last year he suffered two broken jaws which scuttled his season.


Last season, he started slowly, recovering from a groin operation complicated by a hernia. Getting towards top speed, he broke his left leg badly in Canberra and was gone for the year.

Slade, who has just turned 25, admits he has become a good spectator.

"One thing that I have got good at is watching. I did not beat myself up about watching, rather than playing. I just have to concentrate on getting on the field. I can't clutter my mind thinking about those sort of things.

"I'll be honest about it: I want to make it back in the All Blacks. But you have to break it down into phases.

"For me, I just want to complete a Super 15 season, get back on to the field and string a number of games together. I think I have had two 80-minute games in the past two years."

After he broke his leg, he took some time out, and initially had thoughts about getting back and playing for Canterbury towards the end of the ITM Cup.

Eventually, Slade opted to take a slow and steady road back to fitness.

"Long-term injuries, you just cannot get back into the gym in a couple of weeks. You need your mental space.

"You do not want to burn out by the time you are ready to go. You want to be fizzing and ready to go when the time comes. You do not want to be tired of training when the important time and games come."

Slade was still involved in the set-up with the Canterbury side but it was not all rugby when he was laid up.

He went on his honeymoon with wife Emma to Mexico, and also finished his arts degree at the University of Canterbury.

"I was never tempted to play. As soon as I got up there it was a case of just building from square one again. Particularly with my history.

"It is hard to continue in development as a player when you are not playing. So it is important that you keep your head in the game. You can't phase out as you become sort of brain dead when it comes to rugby. The game changes so quick in a year you can't afford to stay out.

"There is probably no better place to stay involved than Canterbury. They have sort of been leading the way." Slade finished the season with Canterbury and then came back to Dunedin early to get some training under his belt.

"I have actually been back in Dunedin since about a week after the ITM Cup. I had a week with Canterbury but made the decision to come back here and have worked with the trainer for the past three weeks.

"So I have been in a self-imposed pre-season for the last three weeks. I have got a bit of catching up to do."

Slade, who has no plans to head overseas, is confident he will be right when the real action starts.

"It is coming along pretty well. If I had to put a figure on it I would say it's 80-90 per cent. I just want to get a bit more explosive, getting that power back in the leg. The strength is there. It is just getting the power back.

"I would like to think I'd be involved in the pre-season ... I have spoken to a lot of players who have been through this sort of injury, everything is going similar to what they have."

He still has the rod in his leg and says it is likely to stay although the two bottom screws are out and the top one may also get taken out.

Slade has not forgotten the moment he broke his leg playing the Brumbies.

"It is hard not to think about. I would be lying if I said I have never thought about it. But speaking to those same players, they say it is completely normal. The only thing to overcome this is to do contact. They reckon after two games with contact then you'll be right." O