Stunning ACL recovery earns Tanginoa new Manly contract
Kelepi Tanginoa kept praying every night, Manly kept the faith with a one-year extension on the quiet, and the result is a rapid ACL recovery unlike anything seen before on the Northern Beaches.
Tanginoa returned to the paddock to little fanfare in their most recent win over Penrith two weeks ago, just three months after being floored by what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury.
With the stocky forward expected to undergo surgery and the typical 6-9 month rehabilitation that comes with a knee reconstruction, Sea Eagles staff duly ruled Tanginoa out for the rest of 2018.
It was a cruel blow considering the strides the 24-year-old had made since arriving at Narrabeen last year.
Deadlifts of 300kg and 185kg bench presses in the gym meant Tanginoa dethroned Marty Taupau as the club's strongest man, earning him a first-grade spot until he went down against Canberra in round four.
Off contract and confined to a knee brace to heal a medial cruciate ligament that was torn in the same injury, Manly extended Tanginoa's deal through until the end of 2019 while he was sidelined, though no announcement has been possible due to the club's salary cap appeal.
And when Tanginoa went in for an MRI scan at the six-week mark, which was expected to confirm a full reconstruction, Manly's faith was rewarded with the good news that has been in short supply this year.
"It's huge, I'm shocked, we all are. My high-performance staff, we've never seen it before," said Sea Eagles head of high performance, Dan Ferris.
"Anyone that gets diagnosed as an ACL injury and then comes back and displays what he did ... it was just lucky that it was some partial tears.
"The injury that we treated first was the most severe one, that was the MCL. You have to heal the MCL before you have the ACL surgery, that's just the protocol if you do both.
"So we braced him for six weeks and that was just enough to avoid that ACL surgery. So when he gets a scan and checks it all, the ACL's healed and it was just one of those lucky things.
"Any more and it would've been automatic surgery. He said he was praying every night. It certainly worked."
Despite making his Telstra Premiership debut in 2013 with Parramatta, he has less than two dozen games to his name across stints with the Eels, North Queensland and Manly.
His start from the bench against Melbourne this Saturday is still just his 23rd NRL game.
Tanginoa played in the Junior Kangaroos alongside the likes of Cameron Munster, Clint Gutherson and Valentine Holmes, and claimed all the right rep honours en route to an early NRL crack.
But staring down a nine-month lay-off with his career at a crossroads just six weeks ago, Tanginoa needed this break like nothing else.
"The plan all week was to play him in reserve grade, play 30 minutes and take him back to NRL through that channel," Ferris says.
"With Marty coming in a bit late [in his delayed return from the Denver Test] we weren't sure how he was going to go. We didn't get to see him until Thursday so we had to tee Kelepi up that he could be playing NRL.
"We gave him two days notice and he got his head around it pretty quickly, but that's what Kelepi's done all year.
"We could see it in the off-season, he was lifting the most weight in our gym by far.
"We were really hoping for a big year and it was really unfortunate, we were all devastated by that injury.
"But we're all ecstatic about the way he's come back."