Jharal Yow Yeh will pull the Broncos jersey on again almost two years after suffering an horrific ankle injury. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Former Test star Jharal Yow Yeh will make an emotion-charged return to the Broncos in a trial in February but insists he won't rest until he has his No.5 jersey back on a permanent basis.
Although Yow Yeh was unable to confirm exactly which of the Broncos' three trials he would play, the likely scenario is that he will once again pull on his beloved Brisbane jumper against the Cowboys in a trial at Dolphin Oval in Redcliffe on February 8, 687 days since he suffered an horrific compound fracture of his right ankle.
"I know that I am getting one [trial] – I'm not sure which one – but I reckon that will take me up another level because it is another level of footy and it will just make me want it a bit more," Yow Yeh told NRL.com of the next step in his goal to play NRL football again.
"I'm going to be able to put that jersey on again and that's the thing I most want, just to be able to put the Broncs jersey back on and run out with my mates that I love playing with.
"I probably took it a little bit for granted that I was playing for the Broncos but now, every chance that I do get this year if I do play for the Broncos, I'm going to give it everything I've got.
"This year is definitely the year for me and I'm not going to let anyone try and take it away from me.
"I'm going to be pretty ruthless and that's why I want to show to 'Hook' (Broncos coach Anthony Griffin) that I can train, that I can do everything he wants me to and I can push through any of the pain that I do have so he knows I'm not here just to play reserve grade again.
"I want that No.5 jersey again."
At a time when rugby league is enduring another bout of negative press, the return of Yow Yeh on the Broncos right wing four weeks out from Round 1 will hold up at the end of the season as one of the feel-good stories of 2014.
But the battle is by no means won. The right leg that has endured eight operations and is still not fully functional is unable to get through longer fitness sessions. The sessions he can complete, an exhausted Yow Yeh has to head home to ice his ankle, continue physio and exercising it merely to be able to wake up and do it all again the next day.
In the immediate aftermath of his injury Yow Yeh spent seven weeks in hospital but in that time received hundreds of letters of well wishes from rugby league fans, inspiring him to throw himself into community work as soon as he was able.
He did it with a sense of gratitude and a new-found appreciation for what rugby league means to people and it led to him being named the Broncos' 2013 Clubman of the Year.
"Without sugar-coating it, the injury he's had was a lot worse than mine," says former teammate Scott Prince, who was one more broken leg away from quitting the game at a young age.
"But just his attitude towards the game and towards the club, he really puts the club and the boys first. That's one thing that I was really impressed with in the 12 months that I spent at the Broncs, that he still loves the game and he still wants to get back to being the best that he can be.
"He inspires a lot of people, not necessarily just players but everyone involved with the club and in rugby league in general."
For his part, Yow Yeh said his injury had taught him to take nothing for granted.
"What happened to me hasn't happened to anyone else in the field of rugby league so as a person it's made me realise and appreciate the little things that come with this opportunity of playing rugby league," he said.
"We've got a great life and a great opportunity that is given to us when we do get to our level and to be a part of the Broncos is just a massive thing. I couldn't have been at a better club at the time that I got injured and what they've done for me... The support I've had from them is ridiculous, it's great, and I love them for it.
"Outside of football, I don't take little things for granted anymore because anything can happen to anyone. You can't take anything for granted and if I'm going to take one thing out of this that's probably it.
"I come to training and I really enjoy it; I do things with my family because anything can happen. That's how I see life now and how the last couple of years have changed everything for me.
"It might be something little to people but for me, to go out of their way and to write a letter to myself and send it to the hospital or send it to the Broncos, was massive. I probably got 200-300 letters that seven weeks I was in hospital and after that I thought, It's more than just a game."
Although February will mark his first game for the Broncos in almost two years, Yow Yeh made his return to the playing field in April last year in the third tier FOGS Cup with Norths Devils and went on to play a further half dozen games for the club he first played for as a 13-year-old.
It was a major milestone in the recovery process that doctors had initially told him he would never reach and fuelled the burning desire to once again play for the club that he holds so dear.
"Playing games brought my confidence right back," the 24-year-old said. "I thought having a year-and-a-half off footy and coming back from an injury and playing the games that I did... I thought I played OK but in saying that I'm pretty hard on myself.
"I still want to get better; I don't want to leave it at that."