RATHBONE: Why I’ve returned to rugby
June 6, 2005. Clyde Rathbone during Wallabies training in Coffs Harbour. AAP Image/Bruce Thomas
“One of the hardest decisions in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder”. I’m not sure who to attribute the above quote to, but it did strike a chord with me.
Back in 2009, my decision to retire was actually fairly simple.
I was in a lot of pain. My knee would throb incessantly, often waking me during the night.
I was consuming painkillers and anti-inflammatories like tic tacs and I had just had a titanium plate inserted into my face to hold my eye socket and jaw together.
I could no longer train or play at a level I was satisfied with and I had lost the enjoyment factor in a big way.
Rugby had become a paycheck rather than a passion.
About 18 months ago, I decided to regain my health and wellbeing. After 10 years as a professional athlete, I had let myself go in a big way.
I wanted to take control of my fitness, so I began training with a simple goal of getting into respectable condition.
Then in February of this year I had my Jerry Maguire moment and went public with my experience of depression.
That same week, Jake White rang me to see if I was interested in playing again. I could train with the Brumbies and become part of their rugby program.
It was a great offer but I turned it down.
The timing wasn’t right, but the seed was well and truly planted.
Almost unconsciously, I began to train with a view to return to the game, and by June, I had decided that I wanted to have another crack.
My body felt good and I felt I had a good handle on how to train in a way that minimised the stress on my knee but still allowed me to maximise my speed and power qualities.
I rang Jake and said that if the offer was still on the table I would like to accept.
Fortunately, he agreed and suggested I wait until the Super Rugby season finished before training with the squad.
I continued to train on my own until a month ago, when I completed some speed testing at the AIS.
Since then I’ve had a couple of weeks in the program and I’m enjoying it immensely. The professionalism of the program and the enthusiasm of the group have been fantastic.
There is a serious feeling of unfinished business heading into next year and the hard work has already started in the lead up to 2013.
I honestly have no idea how I will go and there are a host of reasons why I should fail: I’ve not played at a professional level for three years, I’ve got a knee that requires careful management, and I’m a 31 year old outside back.
At the same time, I believe I can make a success of this comeback or I would not be attempting it.
I’m excited about being given the opportunity to add some value to this Brumbies squad, to finish rugby on my terms, and have a lot of fun doing it.
Whatever happens, I will be able to walk away saying I gave rugby my best shot, left no stone unturned, and learned a lot about myself and about life along the way.
It’s going to be a great challenge and an awesome journey.
I started this column with a quote and I’ll end with one of my favourites by Teddy Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone has returned to Super Rugby with the ACT Brumbies, following an injury-forced retirement from all forms in 2009. He writes guest columns for The Roar, and will blog his journey back to professional rugby in 2013.
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