Anton Lienert-Brown believes the first major injury of his career will ultimately make him a better player.
The All Blacks midfielder tore the labrum of his right shoulder during the Chiefs’ Super Rugby Pacific game against the Blues in Hamilton on April 9 – the same injury he suffered last November against Ireland , which kept him out of the last test of the year against France, hence this time needing surgery.
Six months after surgery was the original time frame for a return.
However, with the help of Chiefs strength and conditioning manager Christos Argus and physio Teresa Te Tamaki, as well as veteran teammate Liam Messam, five-and-a-half months became the focus, and on Wednesday, the 27-year-old has completed his first full team training session with Waikato.
* NPC Power Ranking: Northland reaches impressive heights after historic victory
* Saving Rugby: Five Problematic Laws in the Game and How to Fix Them
* Heart problem revealed for the reason of the French center Virimi Vakatawa banned from the professional career
“It’s nice to sow the seed again,” said thoughtful Lienert-Brown.
“And when you come back there, you realize how much you’ve missed it. It’s been long months training on my own.
“The next few weeks will tell me if I am ready or not. And then if it’s not five and a half months, it could be next week, it could be the week after. We’ll just see how things go.
“It’s cool now that I can see the end of the road.”
All good, Lienert-Brown is targeting Waikato’s final regular season game against Bay of Plenty in Hamilton on October 2, but has also ruled out an appearance for Thames Valley or King Country in the Heartland Championship.
Then the All Blacks year-end tour looms on the horizon, starting with a Test against Japan in Tokyo on October 29, where the second five-eighth / center of 56 Tests will be there to recover as a key part of Ian Foster’s plans, on a team he believes is starting to turn things around.
“I guess you can sympathize with what they’re going through,” Lienert-Brown said of the national team.
New Zealand coach Ian Foster says his side need to do better.
“I know how hard they work and they are such special people. I know it’s been tough, but I think you can see now that they’re making some really good changes, they’ve made a statement against Argentina and they’re starting to turn things around.
“I would love to go on the year-end tour, but I still believe in proving yourself first.
“The main thing for me is to get back on the football pitch and start playing good rugby.”
It is Lienert-Brown’s longest absence since dislocating the same shoulder and requiring surgery just after leaving Christchurch in the north in 2013.
But as soon as he suffered this setback, he intended to stare at the silver lining.
“Nine years of professional rugby, in the same cycle, you don’t have a lot of opportunities to work on yourself, not a lot of long periods to work on areas of your game as much as you would like,” said he declared. .
“It was a nice refresher, it was a good learning curve.
“And the goal is to come back a better player.”
That will mostly be thanks to the experience he gained in an assistant coaching role with the Mooloos, after head coach Ross Filipo came calling with an opportunity.
“I simmered on it for about two weeks because I know how hard coaches have to work,” joked Lienert-Brown.
“But I thought it was a good opportunity for me to challenge myself.”
Initially asked to lead the attack, Lienert-Brown felt that would be too much, so instead opted for a portfolio of groundstrokes, contributing well to the defending champions, who remain the only undefeated side in the competition.
“I’m certainly grateful to have taken on this role because I really learned a lot,” he said.
“It gave me a different perspective of how I see the game.
“When you’re a coach, you look at the opportunities for everyone, all the pictures. As a player, you really just see each other again.
But, while he often appears as a coach, it’s ‘not the top priority’ on Lienert-Brown’s list of post-football jobs.
A shareholder alongside Damian McKenzie and Stephen Donald in the RTD Grins brand, Lienert-Brown’s time on the sidelines has also seen him dabble in TV work for Sky, and generally tries to keep himself busy, also able to spend more time with his partner from Auckland.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that rugby gives me purpose, connection and structure,” he said.
“When you’re home and you’re in a sling and you don’t have much to do, all your mates are at practice, you don’t wake up every day with something you love, and you don’t have to have a plan, it is important that you find it, and in different ways.
“In the first month, you’re sitting around with not much to do, so you say yes to about 20 things, and then you realize you’re busy. That’s how I like to live.
“I’m very vulnerable and I put myself in awkward positions.
“I wanted to grow as a person.”