The playing future of former All Blacks flanker Scott Waldrom is in serious doubt after it was revealed he needs more surgery on a foot injury that has dogged his career.
Waldrom, 32, is due to go under the knife again early next year, with his specialist signalling the surgery could be career-ending.
''It is something that we've always known was going to happen eventually, so it was just a matter of time, really,'' he said.
Waldrom's career stalled in 2004 when he repeatedly failed to get over a foot problem while contracted to Wellington.
Surgery alleviated the problem in 2005 after which he was able to return to rugby. He picked up a contract with Taranaki in 2006 and made his debut against Waikato.
Injuries have been a constant in his career since then, although he still managed 60 appearances over seven seasons.
His form in the amber and black jersey has never been questioned and peaked in 2008 when he was selected for the All Blacks' end-of-year tour. He made his one and only appearance in the black jersey on the tour when he turned out against Munster.
''It [foot] has got worse over time and it has got to the point where something needs to be done,'' he said.
Despite being cut by the Chiefs following their successful Super Rugby campaign this year, Waldrom returned and hit top form early for Taranaki before he broke his arm against Northland.
His absence was felt considerably by Taranaki coach Colin Cooper, who used a number of players in the No 7 jersey in Waldrom's absence.
Despite having his arm still in plaster, Waldrom was hopeful of being picked up by the Hurricanes in today's Super Rugby draft after ongoing discussions with coach Mark Hammett.
Waldrom's latest surgery will involve the removal of up to eight screws in his foot which are likely to be replaced by plates and new screws.
''Speaking to the specialist, he's not too sure how the surgery will go,'' he said. ''It is going to limit the movement in my foot and to be honest, he wasn't really sure if he would be able to get me back playing. He couldn't tell me if it will definitely put me out but he said the likelihood is I will struggle to get back to professional rugby.''
Despite the grim prognosis, Waldrom remains positive.
''I'm looking at it two ways - while I'm pretty gutted because I love playing rugby and want to keep playing as long as I can, the reality is I did this injury seven years ago and it could have been the end then. I've had a pretty good run since then and to have put on the black jersey, play 50 games for Taranaki and Super Rugby. That's not bad for someone who they said would be gone all those years ago.''
He also remained determined to do his best to get back, no matter how slim the chances were.
''I'm not the sort of person who likes to sit round and do nothing. If I can't do rugby, then I want to do something athletic. I heard an ad the other day where they were looking for wheelchair rugby players,'' he joked.
He was looking forward to a summer when he did not have to watch what he was eating and would be able to spend more time with his young family.
A Taranaki Rugby spokesman said Waldrom's performances for the union meant he would always be afforded the opportunity to return and play.
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