Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after an injury that has handed him one of his greatest challenges
Dempsey broke his foot against the Brumbies in round four, a blow that threw his Wallabies hopes out the window, and was initially slated to end his Super Rugby season.
The 23-year-old missed a chunk of 2016 with a shoulder injury before finishing the year with form good enough to be taken on the Wallabies Spring Tour as a development player.
It was that context that meant this injury felt like Dempsey's biggest blow, with the backrower’s sights set on taking the next Test step in 2017.
While his season is far from over, Dempsey said there were plenty of difficulties along the way, but on the verge of a club comeback this weekend, he is finding the bright side.
“It’s probably been the toughest couple of months not only in my career, but in life in general,” he said.
“So, we had a couple of setbacks there - it looked at first like it was six-to-eight week but it kept getting delayed.
“It was just a bit frustrating at times, but we’re looking quite good now.”
Dempsey's playing return will come for NSW club side Gordon, against Randwick and many of his NSW teammates, including back Andrew Kellaway, who can't wait to go toe-to-toe with his good mate.
"Hopefully I’m still on when he comes on in the back end of the game but it’ll be nice to get one on his chin or something like that," he joked.
"You never want to see someone out for a lengthy process with injury so it’s good to see him back and it’s great for him to be returning at Coogee Oval."
Saturday is the beginning of what Dempsey hopes is another late-season surge.
“I think after the way I ended the year last year, going on the Spring Tour and that sort of thing, (I was) feeling quite confident leading into this year as to how I was going to approach the year and what my goals were and obviously playing for the Wallabies was one that was up there,” he said.
“It’s not the end of the world, it’s just the timing put a whole lot of things out of whack.
“My only focus at the moment is getting back on the field and seeing where I‘m at.
“Once I’m there I’ll try to get back to form as quick as I can, and there’s still a lot of rugby left in the back end of the year I can look forward to.”
His goals of a Wallabies gig may not have been far off had it not been for this setback, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika lamenting the turn of events on Thursday, when discussing his June squad.
“We’ve been a little bit disappointed Dempsey hasn’t had more game time, taking him on the tour we had high hopes that he would’ve come in and play a Test this year at some stage,” he said.
The irony is that his Waratahs replacement Ned Hanigan might just be in that mix come next week.
Dempsey and Kellaway will link up with the Waratahs in Queenstown this weekend ahead of their rd 15 match against the Chiefs in Waikato.