William Zillman has very much been the forgotten Titan of season 2015.
Sidelined since round 10 due to a nagging back injury he desperately was hoping would come good, his demons of frustration will be exorcised finally, he hopes, with surgery this week on a bulging disc in his back.
The injury has troubled him for three years since it first erupted during pre-season training in 2012 but he has been able to manage it and bear the occasional discomfort since.
That was until it declined after the round 10 match against Cronulla, and he returned from the bye weekend that followed with pain down his left side and restricted movement. He had two epidural injections after it did not settle down and twice felt he was close to returning to the field when that treatment gave him some relief.
But as he increased the training and running workload he would be, literally, floored again. Finally, after advice from club physio Greg Condon and doctor Paul Ohmsen he decided to write off the season and try to have gain more permanent relief by shaving the disc and providing more space between it and the nerves.
It is a procedure that has been successful for many footballers over the years.
“It’s an injury that flares up from time to time but I’d been able to manage it but in the past six to eight months it has gradually got worse,” reflected Zillman, who was in fine form when he was stopped by the injury.
“Now it’s at the stage where I can run for two or three days in a row without flaring up whereas before I could play and nurse it for a couple of days after a match then be okay to run at the end of the week be fine to play.
“An MRI showed how the disc was bulging and touching on the nerve down the left side, and I’d lose a lot of power down the left side.
“I can’t come close to touching toes. Thankfully the surgery will get rid of the pain and consequences that come with the injury.”
Zillman, who played his 150th NRL game in round four, could not hide how hard it has been to watch from the sidelines as the Titans had started to build some momentum and look at a finals position mid-season and his interchanging between fullback and centre with Josh Hoffman was working well.
He was the second of the team’s ‘spine’ to be sidelined for a long period after Beau Falloon suffered a shoulder injury two weeks earlier in the away win against the Warriors. Then Kane Elgey went down two games later against the Tigers (another win) and Aidan Sezer suffered a hamstring injury a fortnight later against the Warriors.
He played just seven games behind halves Sezer and Elgey.
Added to that, Greg Bird was suspended for eight games from round nine – which meant he played only six of the first 16 games. That meant that of the senior figures in the side match tallies for 2015 are: Zillman 10 games, Falloon 12, Bird 12, Nate Myles 16, Sezer 18.
“It was obviously devastating,” Zilly says.
“It was one of those injuries where all I wanted to do was get out on the park. It wasn’t a definite sort of time duration like a hamstring when you’re out for say four weeks.
“I had some good days and bad days and was preparing to play and do the run at the end of the week and I could hardly walk.
“It was frustrating in that a couple of times I thought I was close to getting back on the field but would have a setback.
“I just want to put it behind me, have some closure on the injury and get stuck into pre-season and hopefully start next season right to go.
“It has happened to us the past few seasons now where we lose players to injuries in key positions a third to halfway through the year when we were building momentum. It’s tough personally for those guys but tough for the club too.”