Tim Nanai-Williams is excited to be back after a frustrating injury, as the Chiefs' run to the Super Rugby playoffs builds to a climax.
Nanai-Williams, 23, came into the Chiefs in 2010 as a Counties-Manukau Steelers fullback/wing, aged 20. As such, he missed the 2009 run to the grand final, and instead went through two frustrating seasons where the team finished 11th and 10th respectively.
Skipper and All Black Mils Muliaina had the starting fullback berth sewn up and fellow All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu one of the wing spots.
But if that was frustrating, so was the osteitis pubis groin injury that has restricted Nanai-Williams' appearances on the wing for the Chiefs this season, despite being a first-choice player whenever he has been fully fit and available.
"It was an injury where I just had to do nothing – no running, no nothing – and then a lot of rehab, a lot of swimming," he said.
It is also an injury that has ended some players' careers and taken big chunks out of others.
"It was quite frustrating doing nothing, but I was lucky enough that mine was quite minor. Once we found out what I had, we basically stripped everything off and just stopped so it didn't get to that point where I'm out for six months.
"It was really frustrating, to be honest, to just do nothing and watching the boys train and play."
He watched his aerobic fitness, built through tough pre-season training, fade.
"My fitness was going away through doing nothing and all I could do was sit down and eat. It was a big learning curve for me, having that injury. It was the worst injury I've had and something I've really learnt from."
After a brief break from playing and then playing against the Hurricanes in Hamilton, Nanai-Williams was sidelined for three games, plus the second bye. He was a late addition to the bench for the Blues match in Albany, but did not get on the field, and finally started last Friday night's match against the Highlanders in Dunedin after the three-week international break.
Nanai-Williams said he was OK to run if needed in the Blues game, but was told he would only go on if injuries occurred and there were none.
"I was glad I didn't get on because I wasn't really ready to step on the field."
Four weeks later in Dunedin was a different story and he said he had been "amped" to not only start the game on the right wing, but to also score the first try inside the opening two minutes.
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