After three skin grafts and major knee reconstruction, Auckland rugby coach Wayne Pivac won't be fishing anytime soon.
In fact, Christmas will be very low key. Pivac won't be walking properly for six to nine months.
Two days after leading Auckland to the NPC final in Christchurch in October, Pivac took his side on an end of year blowout - the more sensible equivalent of the NRL's mad Monday celebrations - that would leave him temporarily crippled.
One-and-a-half-hours in to a four-hour boat trip Pivac emerged from the cabin and slipped on the wet deck. His body weight went forward; his left leg stayed put, getting caught on a ledge behind him, twisting awkwardly in a freak accident that ruptured all three cruciate ligaments - anterior, posterior and medial - in his prone knee.
Unfortunately, no contingency plans had been put in place for injuries and Speights had to serve the painkilling purposes.
Nautical costumes were not as amusing as Pivac elevated and iced his wounded leg until the boat reached the shore.
"The players were hard case. I went for a skate and got back up. Most of them were none the wiser," Pivac told Sunday News.
"When they came out and saw the knee blown up like a rugby ball two or three of them told me to harden up. I must admit it's a saying I use on the players throughout the season so I had no choice.
"Everything is ruptured in the knee. There wasn't a lot holding it together. It wasn't very stable. It was an interesting few hours after I'd done it. It wasn't pleasant. She was a serious pain I can assure you."
Two weeks later, after scans confirmed Pivac had become the second high-profile mentor after Kiwi-born Wales coach Warren Gatland to need surgery, he contacted former All Black flanker Michael Jones for rehab advice.
"I had a good chat to Michael Jones. He did something very similar. He was back playing within 12 months. I'm not as fit as him but I'd like to think my recovery for what I'm trying to do would be six to nine months," Pivac said.
"They took bone out of my good leg and the bad one and they took hamstring attached to the bone out of both legs. There's a lot of screws and staples in there. It was a major surgery."
Five weeks after going under the knife Pivac remains on crutches. Treading water is part of his daily routine. There are sniggers and smiles when he encounters players at Blues' medical facilities.
But he's been through worse - neck surgery in 2009. And, after initial doubts, he intends to be right for the start of the NPC season in mid August.
"It gives you an appreciation of what your players go through. Not just the physical demands of rehabilitation but also the mental side. You have good days and bad days," he said.
"You plateau and questions go into your mind; am I going to be right in time? Is this going to cost me my job?
"By the time the competition starts I'll be walking around with the whistle in my mouth pointing the finger as usual."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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