Cowboys welcome return of the warrior
COWBOYS workhorse Shaun Fensom insists his surgically-repaired leg is the furthest thing from his mind as he prepares to make his NRL comeback against his former club Canberra this weekend.
Fensom was the tragic story of last year's grand final loss to the Storm as he was stretchered from the field after breaking his tibia and fibula just three minutes into the contest.
Play was stopped for 10 minutes as trainers tended to the stricken forward in a sombre end to his first season in Townsville, but Fensom said he's ready to put that heartbreak behind him and get back on the field for the Cowboys.
The 29-year-old ran out for the Townsville Blackhawks in his first rugby league game in more than six months last weekend, making 52 metres from five runs along with a perfect 21-from-21 tackles.
That was enough to convince Cowboys coach Paul Green that Fensom was ready for an NRL return and he'll come off the bench at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night as a replacement for injured forward John Asiata, who had surgery for a pectoral tear yesterday.
Fensom admitted his match fitness still needed some work after his first game - "my lungs were burning a little bit" - but he said he felt no trepidation about his leg as he threw himself into contact for the Blackhawks.
"A lot of people have asked me that (if I was nervous), but I know that it's not gonna break again, it's got a big rod in it," the no-nonsense forward said.
"I've done enough training here and when I get out there that's the last thing I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about all my different roles in attack and defence and doing them to the best of my ability.
"I got hit a few times which was good. It (my leg) didn't really bother me much out there at all."
Fensom is one of rugby league's true gladiators with a history of playing through painful injuries so he had every reason to back himself for a speedy recovery.
The tough-as-nails backrower fractured his arm during a field session while at the Raiders in 2015 and didn't realise until he completely broke it doing weights in the gym the next day.
A year earlier, he returned from a full knee reconstruction well ahead of schedule in just six months, but Fensom admitted even he couldn't rush his comeback from such a horrific broken leg after originally targeting a Round 1 return.
"I probably didn't realise at the start how much rehab was involved in a broken leg," he said.
"I've broken other bones before, in my arm and stuff like that, and that was pretty straight forward, but I had to learn a lot of new things with my leg.
"I had to learn how to run again and I lost a lot of strength for the seven weeks that I was on crutches so it took longer to get that back as well, but I'm glad that I'm back out there playing now."
The Cowboys have sorely missed Fensom's work rate in the middle as they've scraped to a 2-5 record so far this season and he conceded it has been frustrating to watch from the sidelines.
The dedicated team man famously texted Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott from his hospital bed to apologise for letting his team mates down in the grand final and Fensom said he was ready to rip in against the Raiders.
"It's always frustrating not playing footy. That's what I love doing and sitting on the sidelines and watching everyone else out there putting in the hard work, it's very frustrating," Fensom said.
"I'd done a lot of training out the back (with the rehab group) and just to be back running around with the boys, they all gave me a big cheer, so it was good to be back with some more company.
"I just want to get out there and do my role to the best of my ability and tidy up that middle and tighten things up.
"Canberra have got a couple of big boys there and I'm sure they'll try to roll up through the middle. I'll just try to clean things up and be as disciplined as I can."