12 Mar 2020

Serious injury teaches Jazz a lesson

2:27 pm on 12 March 2020

Just like the way he plays rugby league, Jazz Tevaga doesn't hold back when reflecting on how he used to treat his body.

Warriors forward Jazz Tevaga's non-stop work ethic has earnt him a two year contract extension.

Warriors forward Jazz Tevaga's non-stop work ethic has earnt him a two year contract extension. Photo: Photosport

The no-nonsense utility forward is one of a handful of Warriors players unavailable through injury for their 2020 NRL season opener in Newcastle on Saturday night.

Tevaga is three months post an ankle surgery to address an ongoing issue from last season.

Ahead of schedule with his recovery, the 24-year-old was aiming to be back on the field somewhere between round four and six of the competition.

While no athlete wanted to get injured, Tevaga said there had been a positive outcome of going under the knife for the first time.

"One thing I learned is I need to do more with my recovery and looking after my body.

"The 2018-2019 seasons, I didn't really give a sh*t about my body. I just thought, 'I'll be all good'. You know, just strap it up or whatever, inject it. I wouldn't stretch much and I'd get away with the old skip the ice bath and stuff like that.

"But when I think of long-term that's definitely something I needed to take on board, being a bit more professional and doing more than just the average.

"That's how players who play 200-300 games get through - is doing more recovery, being a bit more professional."

It was a lesson plenty of spare time had allowed him to take on board.

After the surgery, Tevaga spent weeks in bed, before transitioning to an extended period in a moon-boot.

He said although it had been difficult physically, the mental challenge of the recovery process had been much greater.

Tevaga said he was thankful to have the support of team-mate and best friend Nathaniel Roache, who was coming back from his third season-ending injury in as many years.

"At first it was tough because I spent a lot of days, a lot of time by myself at home staring at the ceiling.

"You can't help but think about all the negative stuff like, 'what if I don't get back to where I was, what if I I lose my spot on the team'. All that stuff plays on your mind.

"I'm lucky I had a good support crew. When I get into that [negative] space, I just think of what Nate's been through and how he's bounced back every time."

Warriors lock Jazz Tevaga

Warriors lock Jazz Tevaga Photo: © Copyright Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz Photosport Ltd 2019

Other family and friends had also been key in keeping the NRL's 2018 interchange player of the year in a positive frame-of-mind.

Despite his experience, Tevaga said rugby league still had work to do when it came to the mental health of injured players.

"It's almost taboo, like not many people talk about it because they feel ashamed.

"It's a massive problem in our game where injured players get depressed and that's when they can fall down paths were like alcohol and drugs.

"I feel like the game needs to do a bit more around the area [because] it is hardly spoken of."

Tevaga, though, had come through the toughest part of his recovery in a healthy position and a return to the field could be less than a month away.

But he insisted there was absolutely no rush.

An important lesson had been learned, he said, and the days of cutting corners when it comes to his career were well and truly over.

"The main thing for me is I don't want to come back in too early. If I'm not ready, I'm not going to play.

"As bad as I want to be out there, I'm only going to play if I'm really 100 per cent.

"If that means I have to play a couple New South Wales Cup games before first grade, then I'm happy for that. Whatever's best for the team."