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
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
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
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."