South Sydney prop forward Roy Asotasi is not a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. He doesn’t particularly believe in magic spells or evil curses. Which is somewhat surprising when you examine his injury toll from the past four years.
Having led the Rabbitohs into the semi‑finals for the first time in 18 years in his first year at the club in 2007, Asotasi tore his pectoral muscle in Round 25, 2008, his anterior cruciate ligament in Round 22, 2009 and then having got back to somewhere near his best towards the end of 2010 had his 2011 season brought to an end after just eight weeks with a serious wrist injury.
Fellow Rabbitohs big men Scott Geddes, Luke Stuart and Sam Burgess have each suffered long-term injuries in recent seasons but Asotasi doesn’t believe the club needs to retire the No.8 and 10 jerseys.
“I’ve seen Scotty in [the rehab group] plenty of times, and that’s a place you don’t want to be,” he tells Big League. “I wouldn’t say it’s a curse because I think South Sydney’s had its fair share of injuries in all positions throughout the past five years that I’ve been at the club.”
Asotasi is happy to be healthy again after a freak injury ended his 2011 season. Taking a hit-up against the Sharks in Round 8, Asotasi put his hand out to cushion his fall but suffered a dislocated bone in his wrist that was putting pressure on a nerve. He was rushed in for emergency surgery following scans to eliminate the risk of permanent nerve damage.
“When I initially did it I thought it was something minor; it wasn’t until the next day that I found out with the scans and everything that it needed emergency surgery,” he recalls.
The left wrist will be heavily strapped when he takes on his former club, the Bulldogs, in a Good Friday blockbuster but it is the mental scarring that has proved most difficult to overcome.
“It definitely plays with your head. When you come back you’re fighting with a lack of confidence,” he admits. “You’re trying to get back to playing your best and trying to get your body right. With the pec it was a matter of slowly getting back into the contact; with the knee it was agility and getting that lateral movement and the wrist was getting back into the contact again, getting up and down off the ground and the wrestling and tackling.
“You do get that confidence back in training but it’s not until you play in a game where you find out the real test of whether it can handle the G-force of an NRL game and whether you’re really back or not.”
The arrival of Asotasi to Redfern back in 2007 was supposed to be the catalyst for a return to the club’s glory days. After a semi-final appearance in his maiden year as a Rabbitoh, hopes were high but it’s been a fruitless return in the four seasons since. Even still, South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson has no doubt that the likes of Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, Dave Taylor and Matt King would not be at the club in 2012 had Asotasi not made the first move.
“It was a huge leap of faith for Roy, leaving a premiership-winning club and coming to Souths at a time when we were just starting to grow,” Richardson says. “People seem to forget where we were then; we were on the bottom of the table and the year after he was the Dally M Prop of the Year.
“He’s been unlucky with injuries but certainly without Roy coming across when he did we would have battled to get players to come to the club.”
Contracted to the club until the end of the 2013 season, Asotasi is determined to lead the Rabbitohs back into the top eight and play the type of football for which he was first recruited.
“I probably expected a lot more,” the 30-year-old says of the team’s results. “We’ve only made the one Finals Series so I can’t really say it’s been great.
“I’m just focusing on the Bulldogs this week and then at the end of the season we’ll review it and see how it is.
“My philosophy now is to treat each game like it’s your last because with my recent experience with injuries it can happen at any time.”