Crichton's amazing tale of persistence
Suffering an injury early in your development is an unfortunate rite of passage most budding rugby league players seem to go through.
Just ask Angus Crichton.
The former Australian Schoolboys rugby star could have been a household name by now in the NRL, but injuries have cruelled the rookie's time with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Crichton didn't forge the common path in his journey to first grade, playing just seven Holden Cup matches in two seasons, as well as a handful of games in the Intrust Super Premiership.
His numbers from the 2015 NYC season were incredible, averaging over 150 metres from six matches, while his sole appearance this year saw him carry the ball for 198 metres and score a try to go with the three he grabbed 12 months ago.
Last year's exploits in the Holden Cup signalled a significant change in his career, with Crichton making the move from rugby union back to rugby league in what was his first full season in the 13-man code since he was in year seven.
The switch appears to have paid off, with Crichton earning his NRL debut in Round 19 against the Broncos and backing it up the following week against the Sea Eagles.
But as he revealed to NRL.com, a serious neck injury he suffered while playing union as a 17-year-old almost put an end to his career before it had even begun.
"The neck injury was when I was playing for NSW Under-18s. It was in a tackle and I pinched a nerve in my neck. I missed the whole rugby union season; I think it was about a three-month recovery," he said.
"When I first did it I thought I'd done something really serious because I felt a pinch and a crack on my neck and my arms got all warm and I thought something had gone really wrong.
"Ever since then I've worked hard to get it right. It's one of those things where you've got to wait week to week and ended up alright.
"I got back just in time for the SG Ball pre-season and ended up doing the NYC pre-season."
Through grit and determination, Crichton got back on the footy field, initially with the Roosters, before signing on full-time with the Rabbitohs.
That was until injuries once again intervened.
"I've had an ongoing finger problem since last year. I missed three or four months last season with a finger injury which was really frustrating because I could do all my running, but I just couldn’t get on the field," he said.
"At first I didn't actually know what had happened, it was just really sore but I just kept playing. It started to swell up a bit so I knew something wasn't right.
"It turns out I'd snapped a tendon in my figure, and I had to get it fused.
"I got surgery on that to get it right, but the surgery didn't work properly. I kept playing after that with a bit of pain, but I got it fused when I went in for groin surgery.
"Now I play in a cast and I think I might need to have surgery on it again at the end of the season depending on how it pulls up."
Things looked to be back on track for the 20-year-old until he was struck down by another severe injury on the eve of the Auckland Nines.
"After doing the entire pre-season, I had osteitis pubis, which is a groin overload injury from training too much," he continued.
"I think I got a bit ahead of myself and my body just needed some rest, so I ended up having surgery on my groin which was a three-four month recovery time.
"It was a hefty surgery to have to come back from, but I'm feeling pretty close to 100 per cent now, which is something I haven't been able to say for a while."
Crichton's determination to make his NRL debut helped him through the extensive rehabilitation process, but as he told NRL.com, it was all worth it.
"It's something I've always wanted to do, and I have to admit that it doesn't feel real," he admitted.
"I wouldn't say I'm a first-grader just yet, but to be able to play in first grade and to have the opportunity to have a crack is something I'll never forget.
"I always thought I'd be able to do it this year – that was my goal – but the next thing for me is to get a few wins under the belt.
"I'm just loving the opportunity of being here and being able to play footy. My main focus now is to stay in first grade."