Rugby league can be a cruel mistress at times with young, talented players seemingly more prone to debilitating injuries that can stifle career progression.
This was certainly the case for Tumut rugby league player Jack Dean, with the talented utility cut down by three consecutive anterior cruciate ligament injuries.
At one stage, Andrew Purcell of Map Sports signed Dean, after he had successfully trialed with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“I was going into under 15s and trialed with the Rabbits and was asked to come back, so I continued there for three more trial matches and then that got put to a stop after snapping my ACL playing for Tumut during the season,” Dean said.
Dean’s disastrous injury run started with that first ACL injury and the youngster admitted to rushing back from surgery and not taking full care during his recovery.
“Six months after that surgery, being young and dumb, I went back to playing Oz Tag and a few matches in, I went to step and did it again for the second time,” Dean said.
“12 months later, I went back to playing footy and played the year out then trialled again at the end of that year for SG ball for the (Parramatta) Eels and they were interested but they said I wasn’t quite ready yet and told me to come back in 12 months.”
Despite taking his time with the recovery after his second ACL injury, Dean would eventually have a third injury, crushing any chance of a representative rugby league career.
“Going into my second year of under 18s, I played the year out and in the last game of the year, I got chopped side-on and did my ACL for the third time.”
Dean has since had two years off rugby league and returned this year for the Bowlie Bears in the Tumut Pub 9s.
“I’m now getting the chance this year to have one last crack,” he said.
The 20-year-old has been in exceptionally good form for the Bears so far, with the centre playing more like a second rower and proving very hard to stop with powerful runs and strong defence.
He will also suit up for the Tumut Blues, starting out in reserve grade as his knee continues to strengthen and his confidence slowly builds.
“I’m just looking forward to playing some good footy and getting back to my best and staying injury free,” Dean said.
Dean did admit to getting nervous about his knee before games but said all is forgotten once he is out there playing.
“Before a game, yes I get nervous, but when I’m out there, everything else goes out the window and I’m focused on what’s in front of me,” Dean said.
The Tumut Blues will no doubt be watching Dean’s development as the season progresses but he isn’t putting any pressure on himself to play in the top grade anytime soon.
“If the opportunity presents to play firsts, I’d happily jump at that too but my main priority is playing back at 100% and I’ve got a lot to go until then,” Dean said.
Blues reserve grade and Bowlie Bears coach Mitchell Smith was pleased to see Dean back playing rugby league and said he was looking bigger and better each time he played.
“Jack (Dean) is building in confidence every week and getting better and better each time he steps back out onto the paddock,” Smith said.
“He has been playing really well in the Pub 9s, which is great for the season ahead.”
Smith was excited to have Dean to call upon this year and said that he would offer a lot to a young Blues side.
“He has size, knowledge of the game and he will add class to our edges, which is an area we struggled with last year,” Smith said.
For the moment though, Dean will be focusing on his Tumut pub 9s commitments with the Bears and their game against Tumbarumba tonight.