Olympics on the mind as Hutchison reflects on season-ending injury

Tue, Mar 21, 2023, 2:12 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

Sevens captain Henry Hutchison has no regrets about his Achilles injury, spurred on by the potential of a third Olympics after the season-ending setback.

Hutchison will miss the rest of the 2022-23 World Series after suffering the heartbreaking injury on home soil during the Sydney leg.

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It's a massive blow for the Australians, who sit in fifth place, currently the last automatic Olympic qualifying spot with hosts France inside the top four.

The 26-year-old revealed he was far from 100% heading into the tournament following a physical Hamilton leg a week earlier.

“I picked up a few bangs from Hamilton,” he explained. “I fractured my wrist in the Fiji semi final and then managed to fracture or got a lot of bony cartilage damage in my ribs along the way.

“I carried those into the Sydney tournament so maybe the body was a little bit off in that tournament. 

“Maybe if I had scanned my wrist I wouldn’t played Sydney and maybe not done my ACL but it was my decision to play.

“I picked up a little bit of an MCL in the Canada game as well before I did my knee in Argentina….I know I initially did in that first incident when I went to step into the contact. I heard the pop and went down like a sack of potatoes. 

“I think deep down in my heart of hearts, I knew that I tore my ACL and then managed to finish the half and I think when the body and brain cooled down and relaxed, the trauma of the ACL tear just to come out a bit more and then started to run and pick up speed so I felt it go again.”

“So I think my body was screaming for a rest but probably didn’t need 12 months rest.”

Hutchison rejected suggestions he should've sat out given the injuries he brought into the tournament, spurred on by the prospect of playing at home for the first time in three years.

“Yeah, things could have been very different. I could have continued on and kept playing with the boys and soaked up and played LA (and Vancouver)…you can lose sleep over it but the end of the day, it was my decision to play,” he reaffirmed.

“I'd like to show my teammates that you know playing with needles and playing with injuries is part of the deal of being a professional rugby player. 

“I think playing at home also gave me that extra drive that I wanted to go out to show the Rugby community in Sydney and put on a good show and that’s the decision I made.

“Injuries are part of it. ACL, fractured ribs, broke ribs, whatever it is that they come potentially from playing football. I guess the rugby gods decided it was my time to have a stint on the sideline.”

Hutchison has started his rehab process, working with a specialist in Canberra as he pushes for a return for the 2023-24 Series.

He has drawn inspiration from athletes across the country, including South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Liam Knight, with the goal of becoming a three-time Olympian firmly on the mind.

“I think the first two hours were the hardest. I remember sitting the back of the medical shed and thinking ’s***, I’m in for a stint here,” he recalled.

“It’s my first big sit out. I’ve torn my hamstring, done my ankle but that’s about it. I was looking down this long, dark road on not knowing but it’s a road well traveled and a lot of people have come back from it. I’ve had a lot of support from Rugby players and from other sports who have done this coming back better, fitter, strong and faster.

“I had a meeting with team manager Scott Bowen and coach Johnny (Manenti) and he reassured me that Olympics is the goal.

“There’s no rushing back to get back in play for Dubai or Cape Town, the focus is let’s get you back January 1 and building nicely for the Olympics. The comeback has the potential to be really positive story to come back from, you’d forget about the setbacks because it’d be all worth it.

“That’s definitely the dangling carrot to get the body right so I can perform early well and make the Australian Rugby community proud."

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