Tim Nanai-Williams had to learn to walk again last year and has had a long haul back to fitness after major surgery.
But already the utility back is eyeing an opportunity of playing fullback again for the Chiefs as pre-season injuries deplete the No 15 ranks.
Nanai-Williams, who has played a key role at fullback, wing and centre for the back-to-back Super Rugby champions was sidelined late last season and forced to have major groin and knee surgery the week of the August 3 final, meaning he could only watch his team-mates win another title and his Counties Manukau provincial side take the Ranfurly Shield for the first time.
Nanai-Williams underwent an adductor release to repair muscle torn away from the bone as well as knee surgery to repair a rupture medial cruciate ligament (mcl).
"The doctor had to get in and snip all the tendons off to regrow again so I had to start all over again strengthening my legs, my glutes, my groins and I had to learn how to walk pretty much because I did my mcl as well," Nanai-Williams said.
He had to stay off his feet for 11 weeks - six in a wheelchair and the rest on crutches.
"I literally had to learn how to walk again and was like a baby crawling before I could walk.
"It was quite weird because when I took the crutches away I could walk but my legs were very wobbly and there was not a lot of muscle and strength in there so there were a lot of squats - one-legged squats, body squats and a lot of glute work.
"As much as a I wanted to do a lot of fitness and running and stuff I had to basically start from there."
Once walking was mastered it was on to jogging and now he has been back running properly for about four weeks, this week easing his way into team training.
"It was all little, slow progresses and it was quite frustrating because at times you feel like it's not working and at times you want to run but you can't but at the moment it's going really well and I'm happy with the progress," he said.
If he has learnt anything from the experience it has been the need for patience.
"It was all quite new to me as I had never been [seriously] injured before and I just had to learn to be patient and that's what I've been doing the last couple of weeks - being patient and not pushing things."
Nanai-Williams joined his first backs session yesterday at Ruakura and conceded he was nervous.
"I wasn't too sure how it was going to pan out because I'm quite scared at the moment - just that feeling that it might give way again - but with the strengthening I've done and a couple more weeks running with the boys it should definitely come right."
He says he wouldn't mind moving back to fullback where he played as a schoolboy and for much of his early rep rugby.
"The coaches threw me in the deep end last season at centre and I enjoy challenges. Playing centre last year has really helped me a lot as a footy player and given me the confidence to go from one position to another," Nanai-Williams said.
- Fairfax Media
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