Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey says a call from Wallabies great John Eales gave him a new perspective in his return from a hamstring injury.
Dempsey tore two tendons off the bone playing for the Wallabies against the Barbarians in October, ending his season just as he seemed to be gaining a foothold in the Test backrow.
The injury came after a stop-start Super Rugby season for the backrower, who battled a foot injury for much of the year.
"It was pretty gutting to be honest," he said.
"I was finding my feet at the Test level. Having missed so much of the 2017 season already through that foot injury, I was keen once I got fit just to show a lot of people what I could do.
"Once I was starting to do that, to hit that road block made it a lot harder to deal with."
Dempsey is targeting an April return from the injury, hoping to be part of NSW’s SCG derby against Queensland on April 14, 2018.
A phone call from Eales, who played with Dempsey’s uncle Tony, helped the 23-year-old see the bigger picture at the beginning of a five-month rehab stint.
Where during his foot layoff, Dempsey was desperate to force his way back, this time he wanted to take a step back.
“He said to me, 'Now that you've got a lot of time away from the game, you can look at it from another angle, you can step away as a player and look at it as another supporter or another member of the rugby community and analyse the game from a different aspect’,” he said.
“That is definitely an interesting thing and something that I'm going to have to get used to, because I remember when i did my foot, i was always constantly fighting, I was never relaxed looking at it from a different angle.”
Now that he’s on track in his recovery, Dempsey said he was confident he could rediscover the form that earned him a Wallabies debut this season.
He won’t be exactly the same, though, the flanker joking he’ll be harbouring an extra dose of anger.
“It's another challenge for me but I'll be back the same player I probably was, just be a little bit more pissed off,” he laughed.
A bit of anger might go a long way for the Waratahs as they look for redemption in 2018 and Dempsey said it was something he felt among the squad, both new and old.
“I know from a mentality point of view, the guys that were here in 2017 and went through last year, they're definitely going to be extra-motivated, but the new guys we've brought in, the new blood, a lot of guys who are actually Sydney boys and NSW boys (will add something as well).”
The Waratahs open their Super Rugby campaign against the Stormers on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT.