Ross Filipo, having retired from Super Rugby last year, received an SOS call from the Chiefs on Sunday, May 17 and, six days later, found himself starting for his old club against the Bulls. He wrote this column before playing against the Highlanders last night.
I have to be honest, when Chiefs assistant coach Tom Coventry rang me a couple of weeks ago I was more than a little surprised. I knew they'd had a lot of injuries at lock, but I thought they would have had cover from someone in the wider training group.
I was pretty excited and nervous but I like a challenge so I said to Tom I was in. I have played maybe four or five club games this season - but only two were for 80 minutes. I'd also managed a couple of weights sessions a week - nothing major - fitting those in around the kids and family life so I knew when I turned up at Chiefs training on the Monday it would be a case of me having to dig deep mentally.
It would be a case of mind over matter and, once I found out I was going to be starting, I set myself the goal of getting through to 45 minutes. It was really about not embarrassing myself or letting the team down.
What made my life a bit easier was that I knew the lineout calls and a lot of the content so didn't have to worry about that. If I had been called into a team other than the Chiefs and had to learn new calls and defensive structures, I'm not sure how well I'd have been able to contribute. What you tend to find as you get older " and with older athletes in general, I'd say " is that it becomes easier to tap into your base fitness-wise.
You also have the advantage of experience, which I think is what got me through. I wanted to make sure I made an impact where I could, that I gave the team a meaningful contribution.
So I didn't chase everything. I didn't want to run needlessly and burn myself out, so it was about timing where I'd show up and, if I got the ball, making sure I used it well. The coaches were gracious and thankful that I had given them 70 minutes but, for me, and for them, the bigger thing was that the team had played well.
It was really pleasing we had come together so well given there were injuries in the group.
It was a real honour for me to play against Victor Matfield. He is a player I have always admired and respected as he is, still, probably the best lineout operator in the world.
I had this feeling he knew where the ball was going on our throw. He could read the body language and he's just so good at set-pieces. But while he took a couple of our throws, he didn't rip us apart as he has some teams this year.
Having had an unexpected taste of Super Rugby again, I guess I am open to still playing at this level. I'd like to have a crack at the ITM Cup and we will see what happens.
I wouldn't want to be picked as the bloke who is there to boost morale " that wouldn't interest me. If I was going to play Super Rugby again, it would have to be because the coaching staff thought I merited a place and I'd want to have a genuine go at being a starting player.
Mentally and physically, I'd need that challenge - want that challenge - and it's good for everyone as it creates competition. But I'll wait and see how things play out.