As the Wallabies rotated through a trio of young hookers in 2018, Jordan Uelese was watching on from home.
Uelese went into 2018 as the likely first-choice Wallabies hooker after Stephen Moore’s retirement but an ACL injury suffered just a day before he was set to join the Wallabies June Series camp stoped that progression in its tracks.
Having been through a knee reconstruction as a teenager, Uelese was immediately aware the injury would be season-ending when he was felled in Auckland against the Blues.
“Honestly, it was the toughest night of my life, just walking back in the change room, reflecting on everything that you work towards,” Uelese told RUGBY.com.au.
“It was hyped up to be my year, all my family flew up to Auckland - I was born in Wellington and my little brother still lived there - so to get injured the way I did, the day before I went into camp, it was shattering for myself and also my family who have always been supporting me.
“There's always a silver lining in things and I took time off to go do some study and I guess work on my body and this year I've got nothing to lose.
“I'm obviously going back from scratch and just worked on little tweaks on my body so I think that's a silver lining.”
A joint infection set Uelese’s recovery back a month into his rehabilitation but now the 21-year-old is hoping for a round one Super Rugby return.
Coming back to the Rebels is his first goal but the carrot of a World Cup berth makes this year even more significant.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tolu Latu, Folau Faingaa and Brandon Paenga-Amosa have shared the hooking duties in Uelese’s absence but asserted themselves as the regular starter, which makes a strong Super Rugby season even more important.
Uelese is certainly still in the Wallabies calculations and took part of the recent Wallabies fitness camp in Sydney.
With the no. 2 spot potentially up for grabs, he is desperate to ensure he pushes his case.
“I think there's no position that is ever locked down for any player,” he said.
“I think it's always up for grabs, looking there last year the boys they mixed around the hooker spot. Ithink that's where we're at at the moment with obviously Taf and Stephen moore holding it down for such a long time, we were sort of in a transition period of getting the new combinations.
“The way I look at it, whoever's performing well is going to get the opportunities so that's how I look at it.”
“I was supporting the boys every night even on Spring Tour, getting up early and watching the boys, obviously some results didn't go their way but I know they're building something special and they're building towards this year which is obviously a big year for the boys,” he said.
“It's a big motivator to get back out there and retake that position, which is not going to be easy. I think Tolu and Folau (Fainga'a) have done a good job as well as Brandon. Definitely, got a lot of work ahead of myself to do so pretty keen to get back out there and prove myself again."