Waratahs and Wallabies flanker Jack Dempsey is finally closing in on a rugby return nearly a year after ripping his hamstring from the bone against the Barbarians.
Dempsey has been in rehab for close to 11 months since suffering the injury last October but said he was finally just days away from a return.
When he initially suffered the injury, he was anticipating an April return but the 24-year-old faced a setback five months into his recovery that blew his return date out and ended his Super Rugby hopes for 2018.
“We got to March and there was an unforeseen setback, just because of the actual nature of the injury, that we couldn't control,” he said.
“We found that around March and then once that was found our focus shifted to an NRC (comeback) at best.
“A lot of people were saying I was off-track but in terms of the last few months were actually positive to get on the field at least some point this year.
“Definitely (come back) next week. I’m pretty much around 100 per cent, I'll be back in for a return.”
Though Dempsey has been able to run relatively freely for months, it was the repairing of nerve damage that held him back and for a time had him concerned about his long-term health.
“It is essentially stuff to do around the nerve of the hamstring that was most likely suffered during the actual incident,” he said.
“When you're dealing with neural stuff and nerve stuff it is a much more serious and long-term thing.
“If you look at Rob Horne and what he's gone through, that's sort of worst case of nerve damage and luckily that's not where I am but that kind of ball park, you have to be very careful and not rush anything.”
The timing of his injury was particularly unfortunate with Dempsey only just beginning to establish himself as a potential long-term Wallabies prospect and the squad was just days away from leaving for Spring Tour.
Dempsey’s taste of Test footy hasn’t been his main motivator on his way back to rugby but it has given him a sense of hope in his recovery.
“It's always good to represent your country,” he said.
“A lot of people asked me because of the nature of the game that I got injured in how it wasn't a Test match and it was the day before we flew out to Japan, was it worth it and all that.
“I guess it's hard to answer right around the moment it happens but having months to think about it, it's kind of like, 'Well, if you're not going out there and putting your body on the line for your country, you probably shouldn't be out there anyway.”
“So, I've kind of come to peace with all that, there's no grudges around that game or all that.
“I'd love to be back in the Wallabies fold but my mind is pretty far from that right now, it's just focused on myself and getting back on the pitch.”
When he finally does make his return, Dempsey has no concerns about any mental hesitation.
“The mental stuff was always going to be the smallest issue for me,” he said.
“(The) stuff around the actual nature of how I got injured, in the breakdown going for a pilfer initially but once you start doing the drills and you start testing it, I mean it's not a thing for me honestly anymore.”
The Rays take on the Canberra Vikings on Saturday September 15, kicking off at 3pm AEST.