Keresoma raring to go after long injury layoff
Canterbury wing Milford Keresoma knows how quickly a dream season can turn to despair.
Keresoma was enjoying a standout rookie campaign in last year's national provincial championship - scoring eight tries in as many games.
The Auckland product had been offered full Super Rugby contracts with the Highlanders and Blues, while a wider training squad spot beckoned at the Crusaders.
Those ambitions disappeared in an instant when Keresoma tried to step past Counties Manukau fullback Toni Pulu for his ninth try of the season last October.
He heard a pop in his left knee and collapsed to the AMI Stadium turf in agony with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
''I knew straight away I'd done something pretty bad. I couldn't walk or anything. I was guessing it was my ACL. The pain was there,'' he said.
The 22-year-old underwent surgery on December 3 and after months of rehabilitation played his first club game for Sumner five weeks ago.
Watching Super Rugby from the couch had been a frustrating experience, but fuelled Keresoma's desire to get back on the park.
''It was hard. That's the one thing players don't like to do, watch rugby on the sideline.
''It's given me motivation to come back better and stronger and hopefully put my hand up for a Super Rugby contract.''
Keresoma was pleased with where his match fitness was at since returning from injury.
His trademark speed and powerful ball carrying skills were slowly improving with each game.
''I've been doing a lot of training, but it doesn't count. It's all about gametime and playing. I'm getting the mojo back.''
The former New Zealand under-20 international was a feature on the left wing for Canterbury last season before his injury setback.
He acknowledged he had to be consistent with his play and continue to work hard on defence to hold down a spot in the Canterbury starting XV.
There will be intense competition for places out wide with Super Rugby players Patrick Osborne and Johnny McNicholl both in the mix. Backline utilities Adam Whitelock and Robbie Thompson can also cover wing.
Keresoma made the move to Canterbury early last year after previously starring at Auckland's Mount Albert Grammar School.
He was a member of their national secondary school title-winning team in 2010, who went through the season unbeaten.
The side included loosehead prop Alex Hodgman, who has been named in Canterbury's NPC squad for the first time this season.
Shifting to Christchurch had helped Keresoma step out of his comfort zone and taught him life skills.
He originally flatted with Crusaders players Jimmy Tupou and Jordan Taufua before living with rugged prop Joe Moody.
Keresoma has also represented the New Zealand Sevens side in the past.
He believed his future was in the 15-man game, despite the lure of sevens being included in the Olympics for the first time in 2016.
Canterbury kick off their NPC campaign against Auckland at AMI Stadium next Saturday.