It may not have been the glittering surroundings of ANZ Stadium on grand final day but for Richie Fa’aoso his return to action at Henson Park felt just as significant.
Fa’aoso, who broke his neck 18 months ago, played 40 minutes for Parramatta’s NSW Cup team Wentworthville against Newtown at the venerable old ground on a sodden Easter Saturday.
The 30-year-old was supported by Eels’ teammates Danny Wicks and Anthony Watmough in the crowd, and said it was a relief to be back.
“I guess it was a bit like a grand final for me, it’s been a long time since I played,” Fa’aoso told AAP.
“I pulled up great and it was just great being out there playing again I loved it.”
The former Manly, Melbourne and Newcastle front-rower, who won a premiership with the Storm in 2012, was forced to retire 12 months later after fracturing his vertebrae during the Sea Eagles’ preliminary final win over South Sydney.
But after successfully undergoing surgery he was given the green light to play again by his surgeon and handed a one-year deal by Parramatta coach Brad Arthur.
However, the NRL initially refused to rubber-stamp the contract dues to concern about insurance, an issue that was finally resolved this week.
“I honestly had no nerves going in to that first hit-up as I’ve been fully confident in my recovery and knew I was right to play,” Fa’aoso said.
“There’s been a few delays but they’re all sorted now and I can move with on with my career.
“I understood why the NRL were cautious, but that is all behind me now I am only looking forward.
“I can’t thank Brad, Scott (Seward) the CEO and everyone at Parramatta enough.
“I am so grateful at the support they have given my family and me and I am desperate now to repay them.”