Jayden Brailey was “in denial” when he tore his Achilles during pre-season. The Knights hooker thought he had served his time on the sidelines — that the ACL injury in 2020 would have used up all his bad luck.
But that wasn’t so.
Brailey will miss majority of the season after rupturing his Achilles at a training session in January.
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The 25-year-old has opened up to foxsports.com.au on the “frustrating” bout of luck he’s endured, how he is coping and when we can expect to see him back on the field.
Brailey is in his third season with the Knights and yet he’s played just 25 games with the club.
The former Shark made the move to the Hunter ahead of the 2020 season. Two rounds in, he tore his ACL and was sidelined for the rest of the year.
He returned in Round 1 last season — with the ‘c’ next to his name too — and became one of Newcastle’s best in the 23 games he played.
But then his career took a cruel turn.
“A lot of mixed emotions,” Brailey said when asked what went through his head when he went down at training.
“I heard (the Achilles rupture) when it went so I knew straight away. It was loud and I felt it so I knew something major was wrong.
“You obviously go through all the emotions. I was in denial — I still am a little bit — anger, I was frustrated and was upset.
“It’s easy to drift in and out of that at times, even now throughout the rehab process.
“But knowing I’ll be back keeps my spirits up and I’m doing a bit more now. I’ve set some goals too.
“I’ve accepted it so that’s the main thing. If I kick stones all the time it’s going to restrict my rehab so I’m trying to be as positive as I can.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s a tough pill to swallow but I’ve just accepted it now.
“I’m definitely going to be playing this season so that’s what’s getting me through my rehab and what’s driving me every day.”
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Having gone through the intense rehabilitation program for his ACL tear, it’d be easy to assume Brailey would be in a way well-equipped for the mental demons that comes with a long-term injury.
But that wasn’t the case.
“I think that added salt to the wound a little bit,” he admitted.
“It sort of makes it a bit harder because I felt like I had done my time two years ago then this rolls around.
“But footy is a rollercoaster, it’s all part and parcel of the game.”
There is however one advantage.
“I think I’m more prepared for rehab though,” Brailey added.
“A lot of the exercises have been copied and pasted from my knee rehab so I’m very familiar with the process, what goes on and what to expect physically and mentally.
“That’s probably been an advantage I’ve got this time round and hopefully that fast-tracks my recovery.”
Brailey knows that this type of injury return times can vary but he is certain he will be back well before finals — and going off the Knights’ early season form there’s a good chance they’ll be there in September.
“I know someone that’s come back in six months and I know someone that’s come back in eight months so there’s a big fluctuation there,” he said.
“I’m on track for six months so I’ll definitely be back before Round 20, but if you ask me once Round 10 rolls around I’ll have a better idea.
“The main thing is that I’m playing footy this year which is a big boost for me mentally.”
With his leg in a cast there’s not a lot Brailey can do. He’s used this time to reflect and shift his mindset.
“I’m trying to read a couple of books, I’m not really much of a reader though and I’ve got a wellness book that I write in every day with all my gratitudes and positive thoughts,” he said.
He also spent a fair bit of time watching Netflix, naturally, in the early weeks of his recovery. His must-watches are The Tinder Swindler and Ozark.
With every injury comes an opportunity for someone else to step up and that’s exactly the case for second-string hooker Chris Randall.
The Newcastle local had played 12 games before this season and is proving to be a real defensive stalwart for the Knights.
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Randall made 45 tackles, 26 tackles and 24 tackles in the first three rounds respectively without a single miss. Then last week he made 53 tackles with just three misses.
He’s relishing the opportunity to work even closer with Brailey — as is the injured Knight.
“Pre-injury we worked side-by-side every day and I’m starting to do a lot more video and sit down with him to sort of just watch football together, because that’s going to help me as well for when I return,” Brailey said.