Short term pain for returning Rochow
He could walk fine and he'd dealt with much worse in the two years prior but Knights back-rower Robbie Rochow says surgery on a bulging disc in his lower back in April was a matter of career longevity, as he gears up for his return on Sunday afternoon.
Describing the "alienating" weeks spent rehabbing alone, Rochow said he has come out the other side of surgery feeling a lot more comfortable in his own body.
Realising he was struggling plenty more "nerve-stiffness" than usual in his back after the Auckland Nines, Rochow added he knew he had to do something to alleviate the pain.
"When there's no-one sharing that injury with you, you go through some times and there are a lot of thoughts in your head. It was frustrating but once you stick to the processes you see the light so I'm confident I'm a lot stronger now than what I was before the operation," Rochow told NRL.com.
"I have had it for about two years and since then I've had a few injections and it got better but in terms of balance and power I just haven't been 100 per cent since. It's been worse previously than what I've experienced this season but you carry things for so long it takes to stop playing to think 'hang on a sec, I have to do something about this'.
"So I had another injection, waited two weeks and saw not one bit of improvement. I got a second opinion from a neurosurgeon in Sydney because a normal person wouldn't have got an operation."
Surgery was a tough option for Rochow to get his head around.
With questions swirling about whether it would work, particularly because he didn't necessarily need it – thoughts on his long-term stature in the NRL allowed Rochow to eventually label it a decision he's glad he made.
"You want surgery to be your last resort but in terms of how I'm going to feel with this injury in five or six years I'm pretty confident it's a one off thing whereas two years ago I knew I still had that little bit of weakness in my right side," Rochow said.
"Now that I have had it looked after, I can't stop my rehab and think it's going to stay better. It's just a constant battle for me now."
Having missed the past three months – a period where Newcastle have only won one game – following the side's opening month of victories, Rochow laughed off suggestions he was the Knights' lucky charm.
Named on the bench for his return against Cronulla, Rochow was confident Newcastle could break their three-game losing streak and said it was a matter of his team worrying about their backyard.
"You can search for problems in any team if you dig hard enough. We have had injuries at the wrong time, we needed a bit more depth and we're still missing a few players at the moment but I'm confident we'll play well this weekend," Rochow said.
"Personally I know what I have to do and I'm worried about my own performance. They always have a strong forward pack and we really need to stop their offloads and second phase play if we're a chance."