Panthers young gun returns from broken back
Young Penrith prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard says he has no hard feelings towards Ryan James over a fractured back suffered in an ugly tackle that ended his 2016 season and is glad to be back in pre-season training.
The 23-year-old admits to some early concerns when discovering he had a back injury but insists "that's footy" and is looking to put the frightening incident behind him.
"I never really had an injury like that before; the specialist said the only way you can get an injury like that is in a car crash," Campbell-Gillard said from Penrith training this week.
"It had to have a twisting and an impact motion for it to break which is what happened in the tackle.
"I could walk so I knew it wasn't major but as soon as I cooled down I knew something wasn't right and got the news when I went to hospital. Six days in hospital then missed the rest of the season."
The Round 25 hit suffered against the Gold Coast happened when Titans prop Ryan James drove his shoulder into the young Panther during a tackle.
It caused a fractured in the transverse process in the L2 and L3 vertebrae – the little "wings" of bone that extend from the side of the vertebrae. While potentially painful it's fortunately not a structural issue or one that affects the spinal cord.
Such injuries are common in motor vehicle accidents and generally only occur when a significant impact results in the sudden twisting or bending of the back. Campbell-Gillard was laid up in hospital for six days but was walking and running pain-free less than two months later.
"When they say you've got a fracture in your back you automatically think 'Can you still play football?' or 'Can you walk?' but when the specialist said it wasn't major I was pretty confident I'd be all right," Campbell-Gillard said of his early reaction.
While he was upset to miss out on Penrith's finals campaign he refused to blame James, saying any footy player was trained to try and bruise their opponents whenever they get an opportunity.
One small upside was it also gave him the chance for much-needed attention to minor injury niggles on his wrist and elbow.
While a minor hip-flexor issue has put Campbell-Gillard on restricted duties lately he's glad to be back training with both his old and new teammates, nominating Cowboys premiership-winner James Tamou as a prized signing for the club.
"He's a big boy, got a lot of experience – grand final, Australia, NSW. There will be a few of us picking his brain, watching his actions and how he handles himself and I think he'll be a massive part of our team," Campbell-Gillard said.
"It feels good to have players like him coming to Penrith and trying to win a premiership which is what we're trying to do."