Published on the QT website 27th Jan 2016 10:00 AM
WES Conlon can see the light.
The 25-year-old Ipswich Jets fullback has emerged from the dark tunnel he was in when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in round three of the Intrust Super Cup last year.
He is now moving freely on his field of dreams at North Ipswich Reserve.
Conlon has picked the brains of Ben and Chris Walker, both of whom have come back to the NRL from serious injuries.
Throw in Jets teammates Tyson Lofipo and Kurtis Lingwoodock, who also did ACLs, and he has plenty of evidence that serious injuries are not the end.
“I reckon I can come back in round one. I want to play right now,” Conlon grinned.
“But me and Ben Walker spoke and my target is around round 10.
“He wants to give me a bit more time…so I can come in mid-season when I can spark the team up again.
“It is coming along really well, but maybe I am a bit too eager. I just want to jump straight back in.
“But Ben and Shane (Walker) know if you jump back in too early you can do more damage.
“They are like my rubber band, holding me back. I am sprinting full lines at training but not doing any sideways (movements) at the moment.”
When Conlon sustained the injury against the Capras he initially thought it was minor, and bravely played on for 30 minutes.
Scans the following Monday confirmed the worst. Reconstructive surgery followed six weeks later and he said goodbye to the 2015 season.
There have been some tough times but wife Kerri, a former Australian league player, sons Beau (9) and Nullah (4), and daughter Koba (1), have been Conlon’s rocks through the dark days.
“I couldn’t walk for a month and there were times where I was a bit down and out,” Conlon said.
“But my wife and kids have helped me get through it and kept my mind off things.
“I’ve grown, I’m stronger and I am a better person inside.
“As a father, a friend and a footballer I am so much more relaxed.
“I am just letting it flow. Everything happens for a reason.
“My knee is strong now, but it was so hard for me to sit by and watch on the sidelines.
“I have never been one to sit on the sidelines and I just could not join in.
“Because we are all so tightly knit at the Jets and so connected, I still felt like I was part of it and out there playing in every game. I was just so happy the team won.”
With nine of the Intrust Super Cup and NRL State Championship winning side moving on, the challenge in 2016 is massive.
“It is a changeover of players but that happened when I went there in 2013 and we had a team of players who were brand new to cup,” Conlon said.
“We were all young, but the culture and relationship we all have at the Jets means that one pre-season with us can make you a better footballer on the field and a better person off it.
“What we have at the Jets makes you want to go training. You want to turn up because you want to see your mates, have a yarn and do the hard stuff with them.
“I’ve played at Murri Knockouts since I was 16 and I’ve loved it. It is the same at the Jets.”
Conlon explained how the Jets, like teams at the Murri Knockout, “are not strict and structured”.
“When you play strict and structured footy you can’t do what you want, but Ben and Shane encourage you to back yourself.
“A lot of coaches don’t because of the risk, but if you practise it is no risk.
“With the short kick-offs, I practised and practised…and I got better at it.”
The forced break from footy may well increase Conlon’s longevity in the game.
“One of my goals is to play until I am 33,” he said.
“The injury setback helped me grow and get stronger, and I also think it is going to carry me on until then.”