By Matthew Burke, The Sun Herald
There is no worse sight than seeing a sportsperson fall through injury.
Their hopes and dreams go up in smoke, as does the close-knit group that surrounds them, all letting out a collective sigh of “oh no”.
That’s certainly what I said when Stephen Moore went down on Saturday, June 7.
The immediate question that Moore faces is how do you manage the next period of time, when all you have in your head are negative thoughts.
Questions like how long will I be sidelined for? Will I still be able to contribute? Who will take my position? Will I make it back in time for the World Cup? How do I take stock of the situation? How do I move forward?
Well the answer to all those questions is time.
You just can’t rush it and you certainly can’t put an end point on it.
The ride you take is as emotional as a rugby player will like to admit.
Why can I say these things? After all, here is a list of my ailments during my playing days: left shoulder reconstruction, right shoulder reconstruction, left knee reconstruction, right knee is rubbish (technical term), left ankle posterior impingement, back, neck, wrist . . . the list goes on.
I am not trying to gain your pity for what happened to me, nor do I want it. I want to highlight the pains that professional players go through to bring you the spectacle we see each weekend.
The week of hard work to get it right on the big stage, or worst case get it wrong. Then that hurt is compounded by the words written the following day.
You can’t have enough respect for the player who suffers an debilitating injury, does the hard yards on the long road to recovery and eventually resumes playing.
That’s a given, but there are also the players who are the competitors, that just emit that aura of toughness.
I am talking about the players that take the impact hits, week in week out, and continue on the same path to do it all again.
Like Moore, with 92 caps for the Wallabies. They used to equate the packing of the scrum to a car crash. I would hate to be one of those boys after a game.
Don’t forget the backs though in the toughness stakes. All those forwards out there – you can stop laughing.
I also look at a bloke like Adam Ashley-Cooper and see someone who holds the value of playing for his mates so high.
Yes he may look well manicured with that beard and the carefully careless look with the hair, but what springs to mind was his resolution in last years Lions series.
Yes the series got away from them, but Ashley-Cooper was always there, playing busted and still contributing. That’s what a coach is looking for.
Most players play with some kind of injury and for them and the medical staff it’s about managing those injuries the best you can so you are right to go again in seven days’ time.
This sounds easy but can be a very difficult process. I remember Phil Kearns had a reduced running program because of his dodgy Achilles. We also used to joke at the Waratahs that Chris Whitaker was on the Terry Lamb program because of his knees.
Jokes aside, both players exemplified toughness. They did what was needed take be able play on the Saturday.
As a captain, you get the intuition as to who needs a little hurry up and who is doing just fine. It’s your responsibility to make sure the blend of aggression and strategy isn’t blurred, but clearly defined.
That day to day “stuff” is what makes a team tick. The culture as some call it. That ability to look into your teammates’ eyes and just know they will not give up.
That’s the resilience players need these days. More games are being played and therefore more training. I am not saying the current crop are tougher than the eras gone by but it’s apples for apples.
Today’s players have their own set of boundaries of what they define as tough, both physically and mentally. I can sense a increase in the Wallabies persona of what is determined as toughness both on the field and in the minds. Even though there has been changes in the captaincy, one could read into that as instability, but I think that has created a deeper resolve to get the job done.