Fensom off the crutches and on the comeback trail
His crutches have been thrown away and his slight limp will soon be gone.
You just know Shaun Fensom will be back bigger and better in the Telstra Premiership in 2018 when he looks in your eyes with steely determination and says: “It’s only a broken bone.”
The 29-year-old North Queensland Cowboys forward became a cult hero courtesy of his thumbs-up gesture to fans as we was taken from the field by medicab with a broken tibia and fibula in the opening moments of the 2017 grand final.
It is one step at a time for Fensom in his recovery. What may seem like small milestones along the way are actually rather significant as he targets a round-one return in 2018.
Ditching the crutches is a sign of his progress.
“It is going really well,” Fensom told NRL.com at Cowboys headquarters.
“I got rid of my crutches a few weeks ago and it was a relief to be able to use my hands and walk around and carry things.
“Just being able to do normal day-to-day activities without crutches is a good feeling.
“I’m starting to walk on it a lot better now and getting rid of my limp.
“I’m building it up and walking on (anti-gravity treadmill) the Alter G … to get my gait pattern back.”
Fensom is working on his leg strength and doing balance work. He’s on the exercise bike and in the pool. He is leaving no stone unturned.
“You’ve got to slowly build it up day-by-day,” he said.
“I want to push for the start of the season. That has been my goal from the start and I will keep pushing for that. We’ll talk to the physio and the surgeon and see how it is progressing.”
Fensom went to hospital straight after leaving ANZ Stadium and went in for surgery the next morning.
“When it first happened I was devastated,” he said.
“I felt like I’d let the team down. I was telling the trainers to ‘hurry up and get me off, get me off’ because I felt like I was holding up the game.
“When I was coming off on the medicab I saw all the flags and everyone standing up so I thought I’d give them a wave and a thumbs-up to get them pumped up and get the Cowboys home.”
He didn’t get any sleep that night as he dealt with “a range of emotions”.
The former Raider wanted to come back to Townsville with the rest of the beaten Cowboys. He was only thinking about his team.
“He was in hospital and texting Matty Scott and apologising to the players. He felt terrible for coming off and not being able to play,” Cowboys physiotherapist Steve Sartori said.
People asked Fensom in the immediate aftermath of the injury whether he would play again and his response was always “why wouldn’t I”.
“That never really crossed my mind,” he said.
“At the end of the day it is only a broken bone. It is in the middle of my leg so I shouldn’t have any ankle impingement or anything like that.
“The surgeon has done a good job and the leg is nice and straight and the scars are healing well.
“I’ve come back six months after an ACL so I know what you’ve got to put in to get back.
“I know what you’ve got to push your body through to overcome not only the injury but mentally ... having the right trust in the body part that you are coming back from and that it can do the job.”
Sartori said Fensom’s speedy recovery from the previous ACL injury pointed to his commitment to rehab.
“He’s a tough cookie and he has been like that his whole career,” he said.
A steel rod has been inserted from the top of his knee down through Fensom’s tibia to hold it together.
As for a round-one return, Sartori said if anyone could attain that goal it was Fensom.
“It is a steep climb for him but it is possible. His work ethic is great and that helps. If he is ready to play, he will play,” he said.
“Tariq Sims was the last guy we had here with that kind of injury. It took him six months. Shaun will have that time, just, so we’ll see how he goes.”
Fensom has not regretted one moment of his move to North Queensland from Canberra at the start of this year.
He is off contract at the end of 2018 and would “love to stay”.
“It’s a great club, great culture, an excellent bunch of guys and haven’t missed a final series since 2010.
“The community gets right behind us. You walk down the street and everyone has got a polo or a jersey on.
“There are no regrets. I haven’t looked back and I am really enjoying it up here.”
Before the interview winds up and Fensom pays a visit to the doctor about his leg, he makes it clear what is inspiring him right now.
“I just am striving to get back playing and get back running,” he said.
“That is what is driving me. I’ll do everything to get back as quick as I can.”