Sam Thaiday admits he briefly feared his career may be over when his eye socket was smashed by the iron head of James Graham just over three months ago.
The veteran Brisbane forward was poleaxed in a tackle during Australia’s Four Nations win over England in London in November. The injury required immediate surgery before he could be given the all-clear to fly home.
Thaiday is back in the UK preparing for the Broncos’ World Club Series clash with Warrington on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) in what will be his first appearance since sustaining the injury at the London Olympic Stadium.
Although he admits he was wary about his eye area and cheekbone when he returned to training last month, he is confident there will be no long-lasting mental effects from the injury.
“I pulled out of the Auckland Nines and the NRL All Stars just to make sure my head was right more than anything,” Thaiday told AAP in London.
“It was scary at the time when it happened and things do cross your mind about there being any long-term problems.
“I had loads of tests as they have to tick every box and make sure everything’s OK around that eye area. Thankfully it’s all good now and I’m just ready to play some footy.”
Thaiday is no stranger to playing in the UK with this being his eighth visit and the fourth time he has been involved in the World Club Series with the Broncos, who head north to Manchester on Thursday having spent the week training in London.
“It’s a great week as this is a pre-season camp for us,” he said.
“We didn’t get a chance to have one this year and being over here with a fairly strong squad is a great opportunity for us to get ready for round one.
“We’ve brought pretty much our full-strength squad, Adam Blair is probably the only one that is not here that will start in round one.
“We’re really serious about this game as it gives us a chance to get those combinations going.”
The game will also be the first time since 2002 that the Broncos start their season without Corey Parker, who retired at the end of last season.
“There’s a fair few hit-ups and a fair few tackles we have to replace with him not there,” Thaiday said.
“We’ve some young guys coming through who are wanting to replace him.
“Joe Ofahengaue has been a stand out, Herman Ese’ese, Tevita Pangai and Jai Arrow too.
“They are putting their hand up to be one of those middle forwards.
“You have to replace players all the time, retirement will happen to us all one day, but losing Corey is a huge hole to fill.”