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Road To Recovery | Billy Smith

The following piece is written entirely in the words of Billy Smith, who talks through his road to recovery and mindset in regards to returning to the football field. 

The start of 2020 was a pretty exciting time for me cause an opportunity arose for me to do something special.

I’d had a good pre-season leading up to it, a few bumps and niggles.

I was trying to get my body right, and I actually finally felt like my body was in good shape.

I started connecting with Kez and Toops a bit better, it was all working out the way that I’d hoped and planned it.

Matt Ikuvalu, Billy Smith, Sam Walker and Kyle Flanagan outside the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick
Matt Ikuvalu, Billy Smith, Sam Walker and Kyle Flanagan outside the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick

Then it felt like on that one day that it all came crashing down in one instance.

It was nothing like the first time I did it, this one was pretty innocuous.

I got hit in a tackle by Joey pretty hard and my studs planted into the ground.

My body went, and my knee stayed still.

I kinda had a hunch that something went wrong, because I heard a few cracks.

I got up, I looked over at the physio and he didn’t seem too concerned, so I kept training for probably an extra ten minutes or so.

I didn’t know what had happened.

Obviously when you hear a crack in your leg you don’t feel completely safe, but it wasn’t too painful and it just felt like there wasn’t anything to be too concerned about.

I just continued training and kept it all in the back of my mind.

Having done it before, when you hear a crack you generally think it’s going to be an ACL.

I was more concerned that I couldn’t train, cause I wanted to cement that left centre spot.

That’s what was at the forefront of my mind anyway.

It happened at the end of the session, so I didn’t have a whole lot more to do.

Chucked some ice on it, headed back to HQ and they had a further assessment of it.

They didn’t think too much of it, but they wanted to be safe so they locked in a scan.

I actually did a weights session after that as well, and it felt pretty good.

It felt a bit weird, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I mean, I got through a full weights session so it can’t be too bad.

Went and got the scan, and that’s when I got the news.

Probably one of the toughest days of my life to date.

That’s how it all unfolded.

It was the opposite knee to the one I injured in 2018 too.

The day after it happened, Robbo gave me a call and he was awesome about it.

He just said “Don’t worry about it. As tough as that might be, just focus on recovery and the next year.”

He told me that he saw me in their long term plans and all that made me feel better about it.

The thing is, when you do one ACL there’s a one in four chance that you’re going to do the other one.

People tend to leave that out when you do it the first time, because that’s not news that you want to hear.

The week that followed was tough.

I woke up the morning after and just thought to myself, “has this really happened again?”

A week later, I sat down with Mum and she told me I can’t sit on it for too long or I’ll just be sitting around feeling sorry for myself.

After that I kind of just thought what’s happened has happened, how am I going to respond?

The best way to respond is to get back to work and start training again.

It’s not a long term hiccup, it’s short term.

Billy Smith takes the ball up against the Rabbitohs in 2019.
Billy Smith takes the ball up against the Rabbitohs in 2019.

I knew I just had to lock down and focus on my body and on my mind to get myself right.

Having that confidence in some of the senior guys at the Club and Robbo got me back to work and back to what I love doing.

This year was all set up for me in a really good way, and I felt good.

I was talking to Kez about that session before it all happened, cause we were finding some luck on that left edge and having some fun with it.

That’s my goal, to get back to where I was and further, playing consistent footy with those guys.

Nothing changes, I’ve just got a bit more time to focus on my body and myself.

Next year I’ll be right back there.

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Everything’s tacking on well at the moment, the knee is actually feeling pretty good.

Obviously with the current way that everything is it’s a bit different.

I’m not able to physically be at the Club as much, but I’m just doing all the work at home.

I’ve been getting rehab treatment once or twice a week.

I’m starting to do some weights now, and I’m getting it moving and feeling a bit more myself which is the most important thing.

In the first couple of months when you’re in a brace and not moving very well it’s a bit tricky, but now I’m out of it and now seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s heaps of success stories too.

The one I lean on the most is Teddy, who’s one of my good mates at the Club.

He did his ACL in his debut, then returned the next year with another horrific knee injury.

To come back and be the player he is now probably the best player in the world, that’s confidence in itself.

James Tedesco embraces Billy Smith after scoring his second NRL try.
James Tedesco embraces Billy Smith after scoring his second NRL try.

Boydo’s another one, big characters of the game having to overcome huge hurdles at such a young age and be where they are now is a huge boost.

We’ve got J Moz coming in this year too which is cool.

I grew up admiring the Morris brothers, and Josh is a down and out centre.

I was in awe of those guys, so I was so happy when I saw he was coming.

He’s got a lot of wisdom to share too, so I’ll definitely lean on his shoulder a bit and pick his brain about the position when we’re all back.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’ll get back at some point

Billy Smith