Rugby: Slade keen to perform

Colin Slade keeps up his fitness with some swimming at the St Clair Hot Water Pool this week. Also pictured above is Brayden Mitchell. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
Colin Slade keeps up his fitness with some swimming at the St Clair Hot Water Pool this week. Also pictured above is Brayden Mitchell. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
He has had two false starts. Now, Colin Slade is confident of making it third time lucky. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn catches up with the first five-eighth as the Highlanders get into pre-season training.

Colin Slade is backing himself to do the job.

Sure, his last two years have been about as memorable as a Police Academy sequel, but Slade 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 injury-wise in the Highlanders jersey since signing in late 2010.

In 2011, he suffered two broken jaws which scuttled his season.

Last season, he started slowly, recovering from a groin operation which was 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, getting back on to the field, and stringing 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 thought about getting back and playing for Canterbury at the back end of the ITM Cup.

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

''Long-term injuries you just can not 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 to 90%. 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.

''Quite often it is not the leg sore but other things like a hamstring or a knee. I'm just conditioning the body to get back into the hard work. It certainly has not been used to it.

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

''But you have your ups and downs, you have your good days and your bad.''

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 not 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.''