My knee feels perfect now, I'm excited to get back playing again
Player Diary: Josh van der flier
It's hard to look back on the last while and know what I really think. In some ways it has been a relatively fast seven months since injuring my knee in February. But then when I consider all that has gone on since then and all the rugby that has been played and what I missed during that time, it does seem a bit more drawn out than that.
I suppose when are in the thick of it and your new routine takes over time moves on and the team move on and you do your thing and they do theirs and before long you're into the rhythm of it.
So as I get ever closer to that come back, it's hard to know what I feel as I look back on it all now.
It was obviously hard watching on during those big games. First up Ireland obviously went through the Six Nations and completed a brilliant Grand Slam and then of course there was the Leinster run in to a PRO14 and a Champions Cup double.
The funny thing is that I was back to being a fan! Obviously I felt connected to the joy that the lads all felt but it was also incredible to watch on as a fan and enjoy the success.
I have to chat briefly about one man in Leinster before I go any further - Fearghal Kerin, our rehabilitation physiotherapist, who is overseeing my rehab. He has been brilliant during this period and throughout the whole recovery so far.
The great thing about Ferg is that he tried to keep it light as well as having the serious side to what we did. Being out for so long can be mentally demanding as much as anything, so the smallest thing can make a difference.
Sometimes it was as simple as trying to predict the team for the game that weekend and going over the ins and outs there. Or coming up with new handshakes or a new phrase or motto for the next phase of rehab.
It may sound silly but I found that really effective in keeping positive throughout a lengthy time out.
As with any period of rehabilitation there can be setbacks and there can be low moments so trying to stay upbeat as much as you can is a huge help.
One of the best things about the rehab staff in Leinster is that my rehab was based on what had gone well for some of the other physios and players who had gone through a similar rehab program.
Well, it's unfortunate that we have that bank of knowledge in one way obviously.
But by the same token that helps the next guy along on his road and it was nice having that reassurance that a number of players have successfully been through the recovery process I am going through now.
That even went as far as the house that I am in where Tom Daly had an ACL last year and even Adam Byrne has had his fair share of leg injuries.
It's very disappointing to see Will Connors going through it all now with his own ACL but I know, having come through it all, that he is in the very best hands and we are all there to support him as best we can.
The other key element is rest. You can't drive the rehab all the time and even with all the mind games in the world, it's hard to stay positive and fresh throughout, so thankfully I managed to get away for a couple of breaks in June and July.
Naturally in between those it was in for rehab but still the breaks and the change of scenery just helped keep things going and you'd arrive back hungry for more.
A sporting environment is a different place to most other places when people are off because unfortunately there is always someone injured.
Even during the so-called off-season, where everyone is technically off duty, there was still physio and fitness staff in every day to look after injured players or anyone who felt they needed to do some extra prehab or rehab during the break.
It takes huge dedication from all the physio and S&C team and it's a part of their work that many don't often see.
But what it means for us and for me is that I never took a backward step by being off training for too long and meant I was nearly back running by the time all the players arrived back in for pre-season.
It was nice being back into pre-season, albeit a restricted one, and training with the rest of the group in the gym. To be honest it was also nice to be training and not being frustrated by games I was missing. It felt like I was back on the same page as everyone again.
And now I am back fully training the last few weeks which has been great and rewarding. My knee feels perfect now and I have felt good in training so I'm just excited to get back playing matches as soon as possible.
The aim is to try and get back into the team in the next couple of weeks but with the competitiveness in the squad it is probably easier said than done!
Finally I want to acknowledge 'Dippy'. I was very sorry to hear that Dominic Ryan has retired due to injury.
Coming through the sub-academy in Donnybrook his photo was on the wall in the gym along with others who had come through the system. As a fellow back-row he was an inspiration to me every day. This is what I could achieve if I applied myself.
He was a physical player on the pitch and a great person to have around the dressing-room.
A man you want on your side and I'm glad I never had to face him coming at me. It's unfortunate his rugby career had to end this way but no doubt he will be successful at what he puts his hands to next. I wish him well.
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