Veteran Parramatta enforcer Anthony Watmough has revealed he feared his NRL career was over after being forced to learn how to run again following off-season knee surgery.
Five weeks ago the 32-year-old told Eels staff he believed his career was over after finding it difficult to walk and run after going under the knife on his troublesome left knee.
Watmough said he went through some “dark moment” as the injuries sustained over his 13-year career took their toll and was forced to contemplate hanging up the boots.
The 32-year-old’s disappointing 2015 campaign was cut short by shoulder surgery to repair his bicep and rotator cuff and afterwards decided to finally undergo surgery to reattach his medial ligament – an injury he had been playing with for five years.
At the start of pre-season training, Watmough found himself frustrated with his lack of progress and questioned whether he could add to his tally of 303 NRL games.
“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t do anything,” Watmough said.
“About five weeks ago when I first started running, I just said to the physio `I can’t run, I can’t walk, I think I’m done’.
“I went to the wife and I said `I’m done’ and she said `Are you sure?’ At the end of the day it’s footy. I’ve had a good career if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. I’ve had a great run, I’ve met some amazing people.”
It was only after consulting with Eels medical staff who came up with a modified schedule that things started to improve.
He gave himself an ultimatum – if he didn’t see progress in a couple of weeks he would give it away.
Watmough started from scratch and was forced to learn how to run again. Little by little he built up confidence and the power in his legs and on Monday ran for seven and a half kilometres.
“I was told I’ve been playing on one leg for five years,” Watmough said.
“To do that in one of the toughest sports in the world, I didn’t realise how much it was taking away from my game but obviously it was. Performance hasn’t been what it should have been.”
After a disappointing 2015 in which he was dropped from the NSW side, a forthright Watmough admits he was nowhere near his best in his first year in Eels colours.
He gives no guarantees he can reach his former heights but says his ordinary form had more to do with his attitude than his injury toll.
He says he didn’t embrace the Parramatta club as he should and was too preoccupied with “trying to get in and get out and get home”.
“I was still living in Manly and harbouring resentment (towards former club Manly),” Watmough said.
“But life is life. You’ve just got to move on and I’m really enjoying my time at Parra.
“I didn’t embrace it enough last year and that’s my own doing. The next year I really want to build on what Parra’s got.”