When Wycliff Palu’s World Cup was ended, the Wallabies number eight was sure his international career was over.
Four months later, a strange twist of fate means the hamstring injury that ended his 2015 could give him the chance to again don the green and gold.
Palu narrowly avoided surgery after tearing his hamstring against Uruguay in the Wallabies’ second World Cup pool match, with a Japanese stint on the horizon.
However his lengthy recovery time ruled him out of the majority of a shortened Japanese Top League season, rendering him unable to fulfil the first of a two-year deal with Toyota Verblitz.
Completing his rehab in the Waratahs facilities, new head coach Daryl Gibson approached Palu with the option of a one-year NSW deal and the 33-year-old jumped at the chance, fully aware of the alternative.
“(If I hadn’t signed with NSW) I would’ve been sitting at home playing Playstation or something, waiting to get on a plane to Japan,” he said.
Palu returned to Waratahs training before Christmas and is set to head into the Super Rugby year with almost a full pre-season under his belt.
A Wallabies return is in the back of Palu’s mind but playing himself into strong domestic form is his priority.
“I’m just like anyone else playing Super Rugby in Australia, it comes down to form,” he said.
“I’m working hard just to get back into this Waratahs setup.
“I had a bit of a late start to the pre-season so I’m a bit behind the eight ball at the minute.”
The 33-year-old is hopeful of a round one return but won’t be rushing his rehabilitation.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on it,” he said.
“I’m just going to try to get my body in shape. If that takes six weeks, it takes six weeks.
“But I want to push myself and try and get back for round one.”
While his experience will be a valuable commodity in a relatively young Waratahs side this season, Palu said the departure of a number of their senior players won’t change his approach.
“I try to still lead by action and go from there. If that gives the team a lift then so be it,” he said.
“There are some young guys who have been here for a number of years so it’s time for them to step up and really take control and try and really own the position they’re going for.”
Palu still plans on fulfilling the second year of his deal with Toyota, in the 2016-17 Top League season.
NSW kicks off its Super Rugby season on February 27, hosting the Queensland Reds at Allianz Stadium.