Opacic's rotten injury luck finally turns
Luck has turned on a dime for Brisbane Broncos centre Tom Opacic, with one fortuitous bounce of the Steeden in the Suncorp Stadium in-goal.
Opacic was on hand with his second touch of first grade in 18 months, scoring a crucial try in what proved a four-point upset of the North Queensland Cowboys.
With the irony seemingly reserved for rugby league at times, his last Telstra Premiership outing was a 2016 semi-final against the Cowboys, when he played through one busted shoulder and then dislocated the other as Justin O'Neill ran two tries past him.
Two shoulder reconstructions in the space of a month followed that summer, with the recovery, Tautau Moga's surprise 2017 rise, and back-to-back ankle injuries stalling Opacic's sophomore year.
Jordan Kahu's broken jaw against the Cowboys last week gave Opacic his chance off the bench, where he will get another in Friday's trip to Campbelltown against the Wests Tigers.
"It actually felt like another debut for me really after having a year off and not playing first grade," Opacic told NRL.com.
"I did notice how it all worked out, playing my last game against the Cowboys and then coming back again against them too.
"To get a run in such a high-quality game, in front of 46,000 people going crazy in a game like that was unreal… That [semi-final] I had a pretty bad right shoulder injury and James Roberts got suspended in the semi-final against the Titans.
"I was feeling alright throughout the week and thought I could get through the game but mid-second half I then dislocated my other shoulder.
"So I was already struggling with the right pretty badly, it was strapped up to the point I couldn't move it and then when I dislocated the left I was thinking 'I'm just a liability, I can't tackle. I need to go'."
In that forgettable night in Townsville, he was hauled off with the match in the balance and back-rower Alex Glenn shuffled into the centres as Brisbane's season went down the gurgler.
Kahu's six-week lay-off has coincided with Jack Bird's return from his own shoulder surgery, leaving Opacic to fight for an NRL start once more.
Which is just about all the 23-year-old has known. A foot injury cut short his NRL debut after 23 minutes in 2016. But even just to get to that point, the Redcliffe junior went the long route.
"I had just a one day a week train and trial deal with the NRL squad in 2015, so I was splitting my pre-season between Redcliffe and the Broncs," Opacic said.
"I eventually got a run at the (Auckland) Nines, a trial and a one-year contract out of it.
"It was pretty hard to be honest, I was getting flogged at Redcliffe fitness until 8:30 at night on a Monday, and then I had to be at the Broncos at 6am the next day and get flogged again.
"I wanted to be there for sure, but it was a struggle at times getting up and being able to perform at your best, but it's all worked out alright."
Opacic is off contract at the end of 2018, with the Tigers and Cronulla Sharks registering interest in him last year when he couldn't get himself out of the Intrust Super Cup.
Wayne Bennett rates the stocky centre highly, and with a little bit of luck, Opacic plans to set himself up for a second coming in Broncos colours.
"In the next few weeks I'll try and talk to him about what his plans are with me," he said.
"The body's 100% now which is great, and with a good year that contract side of things should take care of itself."