Rebels real-life warrior on the mend after surgery
RUGBY LEAGUE: If there is one word to describe South Grafton Rebels captain Grant Stevens, it is 'warrior'.
Regarded as one of the best forwards on the North Coast, the natural-born leader leads his soldiers into war each and every week, with no forethought for his own wellbeing.
And all the while he has been battling with his own body, a knee injury he sustained in 2013 threatening to derail his charge for the past five years.
He was warned from the field by doctors all those years ago, but he refused to wilt. He returned to reserve grade with the intention to stay there, but that was never going to last long.
Soon he was fighting through the pain to lead the club's first grade side, taking them to history-defining back-to-back premierships.
But after he dislodged his patella during the Murri Carnival last September, Stevens knew something had to be done.
"I used to just put up with the pain. During games it was fine with the adrenaline and everything, but it was the Monday and Tuesday when I would struggle,” he said.
"When I did it in the Murri Carnival, I knew that was it, it was time for the surgery.”
Stevens went under the knife this week, getting a medial collateral ligament reconstruction and patella stabilisation. It has left the skipper with a nasty scar and a two-month recovery.
Stevens will miss most of the Rebels' pre-season camp and by his own request will sit out the first month of football as he regains enough fitness and strength to again strap on the boots.
"I am not going to rush into anything,” he said. "I don't want to be coming back any less than 100 per cent and letting the boys down.
"But once I do make the decision to come back, I will be doing everything at 100 miles an hour. There will be no taking it easy.”
Stevens said he was excited to go into a season and not constantly thinking about the potential for catastrophic injury.
"Each game I was strapping it up and always had the thought in my head that my kneecap could go at any time,” he said.
"Now I can know I have half a normal knee when I go out there. I am hoping it puts a few extra years on my playing career because I really love this game.”
Despite the injury, Stevens has been attending pre-season training as he works closely with coach Ron Gordon to piece together a strong first-grade line-up.
The diehard Rebel believes the club is in a better position than it was this time last year, with a few past legends aiming to again pull on the red and white.
"We have had some great numbers in the last couple of weeks and the committee and coaching staff have done a massive job getting us to where we are,” he said.
"We are in a position where we have attracted a few players and 2018 looks like it will be a big year for the Rebels.”