Anthony Don is racing the clock to be ready for round one of the Telstra Premiership next year after an infection forced him into a second round of shoulder surgery.
The 30-year-old winger had the initial surgery to prevent his shoulder from dislocating, an injury that caused him to miss the back end of 2015 plus another month of football at the start of last season.
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Don had what is known as a Latarjet procedure, where a piece of bone from the shoulder is attached to the front of the shoulder socket to act as a barrier to preventing it slipping out.
‘’I had the operation but there was a bit of a complication where I had to get secondary surgery because it got infected,’’ Don told NRL.com.
‘’It is coming slowly better and hopefully in the new year I can be with the main squad. I haven’t spent much time on the field this pre-season. I only just started running so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
‘’Post-Christmas I am going to work real hard to get it right but I’m not sure whether that is for round one or not.
‘’I hope to, but realistically I might be slightly off. It is hard to say at this point.’’
The infection not only set Don back a fortnight, it was also inconvenient.
‘’I had to get a PIC line in for two weeks. I couldn’t sweat with it in,’’ he said.
“A PIC line is like a cannula [tube] that goes in your arm and drops drugs off near your heart to spread around the body. I had to wear a bum bag with a constant feed of antibiotics which had to get changed each day by a nurse.”
Don had a stellar 2017 season and won the Paul Broughton Medal as the Titans best.
He was the club’s leading try scorer with 12, and his combination on the right side with Konrad Hurrell was one of the highlights of a disappointing season.
“Koni has been our best player for the last two years and last season especially he was the heart and soul of the team,” Don said.
“He scored tries and set me up for tries as well. We worked hard on that combination and hopefully we can stick it out.
“We’ll see what the coaching staff have in mind, but I’d love to play outside him again next year.”
Don said it was “a great honour” to win the Paul Broughton Medal.
“But it doesn’t count for much in the 2018 season,” he said.
“It is a clean slate with the new coaching staff on board and the young guys have got a bit of a jump on me. I’ve got to work hard to get my spot back.”
A school teacher by profession, Don has a deep appreciation for his career as a full-time footballer.
In 2010 he was running around with the Grafton Ghosts where he captured scouts’ attention after scoring a stunning 40 tries in 18 games.
He debuted relatively late in the NRL at the age of 25 and for the past two seasons has been one of the first picked each week in the Titans line-up.
“I’d be doing it for free at my local team if I wasn’t doing it for the Titans,” Don said.
“I know what it is like to work all day and going to train at night at Queensland Cup level, which is a bit of a slog.
“All of that makes me appreciate how lucky I am to play footy for a living and get a good salary for it, which is something I never thought I’d achieve.”