McCalman injury mystery solved

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Backrower Ben McCalman says a six-month break from rugby was the best thing for him, in a frustrating year.

McCalman battled a thumb injury early in the season but it was a fractured scapula that forced him to sit out the majority of the back end, a recurrence of a similar injury from 2016.

The 29-year-old said a premature push to return to rugby hurt his recovery, with his body adjusting to having a fracture, rather than healing itself.

After the lengthy layoff, scans last month finally showed the break had fixed, and he's found his way back into the Wallabies squad to take on the Barbarians.

“Everyone had their own theory about what was happening,” he said.

“I think I just tried to come back too early so the body started to think that being fractured is a normal function for my scapula.

“The right amount of time off, along with a few other different rehab approaches seems to have paid off and now I'm back in camp and enjoying it.”

Though the mysteriousness of the injury was frustrating, he’s simply glad he's finally back on the rugby field, having notched two NRC games for Perth Spirit in recent weeks.

“I guess the fact it was a rare injury and no one had really seen it before (made it difficult),” he said.

“Normally it would heal quickly, but looking back I probably just tried to return too quickly.

“The decision to give it enough time to heal seemed like it was the right one and fortunately for me I'm able to play again and I'm back involved with the squad, which is great.”

The Force backrower is set to make a call on his future in the coming weeks, among a number of Perth players likely to be announcing their 2018 destinations imminently.

“I don't know yet (where I’ll play in 2018) but I've got a year left in my contract so it'll be in Australia, next week we'll know where that will be,” he said.

For now, McCalman is just happy to be back and have the chance to compete in what has become a new-look backrow since his last outing, with the injection of Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey at blindside flanker.

McCalman last played for the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe, starting at six in Sydney, and said he was looking forward to trying to make an impression the Barbarians week.

“(It’s about) consistent performances on the field and that starts with training as well, so for me it's just exciting to be back,” he said.

“They (the backrowers) have been great all season, there’s different combinations complementing each other I guess, new players getting the opportunities and they've done well.

“Competition in those roles is what we need in Australian rugby and it's good to see a lot of competition in the back row.”

The Wallabies take on the Barbarians on Saturday October 28, kicking off at 3pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.