Fensom puts demons behind him for Cowboys comeback
Two months on crutches are a distant memory and the mental demons are well behind him as Shaun Fensom prepares to return to NRL action for North Queensland after a 209-day absence.
The last time the 29-year-old forward was seen at NRL level was as an unlikely hero in the 2017 Telstra Premiership grand final, laying on a medicab and giving the thumbs-up signal to the crowd after breaking his tibia and fibula in the opening moments of the match.
Fensom will come off the bench against his former club Canberra on Saturday night in the knowledge his leg is fine and he's done all the hard work required under the guidance of the Cowboys' high-performance unit.
The rugged forward outlined to NRL.com the toughest aspect of his rehabilitation.
"The hardest part was going seven or eight weeks on crutches. That was the biggest mental battle," he said.
"I like to get out and do a lot of stuff outdoors so being on crutches at the start was very mentally frustrating.
"With the recovery as well, I just had to be strong and be patient. There were setbacks. I just had to keep applying myself with my rehab."
Fensom had aimed to return by round one but that date was later revised to the round six or seven mark.
Last week he played for the Townsville Blackhawks in the Intrust Super Cup where his leg passed its first on-field test, getting through two stints on the paddock.
"When I played on the weekend I knew I'd done my training," Fensom said.
"I knew I was going to be fine so as soon as I got out on the field I wasn't worried about it. I just went into auto pilot.
"It was good to get out there on the paddock and blow a few cobwebs out. My first stint in that first half had the lungs burning a little bit but in the second half they felt a lot better.
"I missed all the pre-season where the boys are getting the loading in their legs. I just had to get out there and get a bit of match fitness."
Fensom has got his chance off the bench due to a pectoral injury to his good mate John Asiata, and had empathy for the versatile forward who is set to miss 10 weeks.
"I feel for Johnny, I was his roommate all last year, so it's very disappointing for him," he said.
Fensom is highly regarded for his defensive workload and is looking forward to lining up alongside Jake Granville, another notable Cowboys tackling machine.
"He's very inspirational to watch defend," Fensom said.
"He's not the biggest bloke but he does throw himself at the attackers so it will be good to eventually get back out there and run around with all the boys."