Rugby: Kennedy keen to play part in Otago's Cup campaign

Otago lock Ross Kennedy just wants to get back on the playing field. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago lock Ross Kennedy just wants to get back on the playing field. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Air New Zealand Cup previewHe was one of the most promising locks in the country three years ago, but now Ross Kennedy is something of a forgotten man. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn finds the Otago beanpole in buoyant mood ahead of the Air New Zealand Cup.

When one of your main jobs on the rugby paddock is to jump and catch the ball, the last thing you want is to develop problems in your legs.

But for more than two years Otago lock Ross Kennedy has been hampered with calf problems.

He transferred from Wellington to Otago last year, hoping to make an impact for Otago and gain Super 14 selection for the Highlanders.

But the plans came undone, as his right leg could not handle the training, and he developed compartment syndrome in his calf, with the volume of muscle, blood vessels and nerves becoming too big for the space within the compartment.

"I was having these niggling calf problems and the medical staff in Wellington were slow to deal with it, so I thought I would come down here and sort it out quickly and get back on the paddock," he said.

"But the calf could just not handle the intensity of the training, and I couldn't run properly."

Kennedy (25) was forced out of the Otago side early in its Air New Zealand Cup campaign, and once diagnosed, returned to Wellington to have an operation, in November.

He now has a long scar on his lower right leg.

"I got really down. It was almost two years with all these problems, but really it is a relatively common injury."

Wellington players Filo Tiatia and Neemia Tialata had had the same problem, and they were able to play again after operations, he said, which gave him confidence.

Kennedy said the recovery was slow and he had to learn to run again, but he diligently followed orders from Otago medical staff.

He returned to the training paddock in autumn and played most of the club season for Pirates, captaining the side and taking plenty of line-out ball.

"It was good to get back with a bunch of guys, have a few beers and enjoy rugby again.

"I've had three pretty crazy years and take it as a real positive that I can still play rugby."

Kennedy, who weighs 116kg and is 1.98m tall, said he first wanted to make the starting line-up for Otago and contribute to the side.

The former Junior All Black said the calf had not been sore during the club season, and he hoped all his injury problems were behind him.


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