Romana Graham knows he has to fix his shoulder, but that can wait. The Ranfurly Shield takes priority.
Graham, the 2m, 115kg New Zealand Maori lock, missed five matches for Waikato after landing heavily on his shoulder in training just before the game against Auckland.
He made a storming return to the Waikato starting XV in the successful Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki last week despite knowing something has to be done to stabilise his shoulder at the end of the season, whether it's surgery or rehabilitation.
Like a number of his team-mates, including most of the forward pack, that shield effort took a physical toll and Graham sat out last Saturday's match against Counties-Manukau.
But there is no way he was going to miss his first chance to defend the shield after his first experience of winning it.
"[The shield is] important to most of us around here, for the region, and it's definitely a big game you want to play," Graham said.
Locks put a reasonable strain on their shoulders jumping in lineouts with their hands above their heads, the same applies to jumping to retrieve the ball at kickoffs and then there is scrummaging and tackling.
"It's not too bad. Nothing tape and a bit of Voltaren can't fix," he said in playing down the extent of the injury.
"I'll probably be looking at surgery that will probably put me out for a few months unless I can rehab it, but I've got a game this week and once the game's over then we can move forward to that."
Officially the injury is labral damage inside the shoulder joint.
Graham felt more restricted by a lack of match fitness than the shoulder in the Taranaki match and is hoping for another big effort against Hawke's Bay tomorrow in Hamilton.
"We knew [Taranaki] were going to be tough and we had to go out there with a no holding back attitude and I know we're going to have to do the same thing again this week against Hawke's Bay because they've got nothing to lose and they're going to come up here wanting to take the shield off us."
But he also knows he has to get his shoulder right as soon as possible in order to ensure he does not delay his pre-season work with the Chiefs after a six-week suspension from last year's NPC premiership final meant he missed the start of this year's Super Rugby season.
That meant skipper Craig Clarke, rookie Brodie Retallick and another newcomer in Mike Fitzgerald got the jump on Graham and he could get little rugby with the Chiefs as a result.
"Hopefully I'll have it all fixed for when we start back in December some time," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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