Warriors centre Ngani Laumape has revealed just how close he came to missing the entire 2015 season after a mishap on the training ground.
A week out from the opening game of the season against the Knights, Laumape suffered a knee injury which initially appeared only minor to club doctors.
Scans later revealed a partial tear of his anterior cruciate ligament, which had come close to fully rupturing and ruling him out of the campaign.
“When it happened, knowing that I would have to get a knee reconstruction again, that was heartbreaking for me at the time,” Laumape said ahead of his return to action against the Storm on Easter Monday.
“I went to pretty dark places.
“I had worked pretty hard in the pre-season to get to where I was and then to go down like that a week before round one was pretty shattering.
“My season could have been fully over and needed another reconstruction… but luckily my fat legs stopped my knee from fully rupturing.”
All through the pre-season coach Andrew McFadden had applauded Laumape for his commitment and discipline, which had seen him get into career-best shape and fitness.
It was no surprise then that after just one comeback game in the NSW Cup Laumape was rushed back into the NRL side at the expense of Matt Allwood at right centre.
“He [Laumape] had a huge pre-season and was as fit as he had ever been,” McFadden said.
“Physically he gives us a lot of punch and I am really excited to see him back in the team.
“He probably would have been there in round one had he been fit.”
After watching fellow Junior Warriors graduate Ben Henry suffer an ACL rupture for the second time in as many years last Sunday, Laumape could be forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive about his comeback.
But the powerful 21-year-old insists he’s ticked all the boxes to ensure the knee is good to go, and that strengthening up the right-edge defence, which was targeted with success by the Broncos last week, was his main priority.
“I have rehabbed it well and seen the specialist, he has given me the all-clear and I have tested it in every way I can and it’s sweet,” Laumape said.
“I have been part of that criticism before playing on the right side when I first came into the team.
“I only know one way to bounce back and that’s just to talk to my insides and outside this weekend. If they come down our way we just have to stop it.
“Combinations will come in time, but if you get that opportunity you just have to take it and do the best job you can.”