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Siolo in 2023 pre-season. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

The Queensland Rugby League’s fortnightly player injury diary, presented by TPIL Lawyers, provides greater insight into how our Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership athletes return from injury and how they overcome the physical and mental challenges that can come with being sidelined.

This week, Sunshine Coast Falcons captain Patrice Siolo shares his story after last year suffering an ACL rupture.

Siolo, who has a career in social work outside of his Cup duties, is hopeful of a return to the field by Round 4 of this season.

Player injury diary: Patrice Siolo

When I went into the 2023 Hostplus Cup season, it is fair to say it had been a while in between drinks for me since my last big injury.

If I look at my career, I’ve been pretty lucky in terms of serious injuries. I’ve had a few niggles here and there but the last time I had a major injury – a shoulder reconstruction - I was only 19 at the time, so 10 years ago.

And then came 2023.

Patrice Siolo. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Patrice Siolo. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

It was in Round 6 against the Souths Logan Magpies, on our home turf, when I went down.

It was a bit of an awkward tackle, no malice in it. It was just a tackle that landed funny.

I felt just a massive pinch or shock of pain in the front of my knee, deep inside my knee. Deep down I knew something was wrong.

I was hopeful it was a medial or something that I’ve done before. But I knew coming off the field I needed a scan as soon as possible.

The scan was three or four days later which, while it wasn’t quick, it gave me plenty of time to sit with it and prepare myself for the worst case scenario.

While I can be a really impatient person, that wait actually turned out to be a good thing for me and helped me prepare mentally for what was potentially to come. I knew I’d either done my ACL and there was a lot of work to come, or it would be a two month injury and I’d be back.

In the end, it was the ACL – fully ruptured - and I had torn my medial as well. The news was delivered to me by Steven Bofinger, who was head physio at the club.

I don’t think he knew that I didn’t know yet. I think he thought the doctor had spoken to me already and just casually dropped it into a conversation. It was a funny way to find out, I kind of laughed and then it was like, at least I know now.

As I drove home, I did think to myself, ‘I’m going to go home and have a little bit of a cry about it,’ which is sometimes what you need.

But 10 months down the track, I’m still waiting for those tears to come.

It’s been a bit of a weird one, this injury. I’ve been lucky in my career to have big ups and plenty of downs to keep me grounded and know how to respond to something like this.

Siolo in action in Round 1 of the 2023 season. Photo: Alix Sweeney/QRL
Siolo in action in Round 1 of the 2023 season. Photo: Alix Sweeney/QRL

After I got the news, I couldn’t have my surgery for a while because I needed to wait six weeks for my medial to heal and get strong again.

The hardest part at this point was that I couldn’t actually do anything. I was at a standstill. It was the slowest part of my whole journey.

Then came the surgery and recovery. My surgeon, Dr Steven Lawrie, talked me through the whole process and made me feel comfortable about how to get back on the field.

But I’m fairly independent and I don’t like to ask for help. Not that I don’t need help, but maybe it’s a bit of my stubbornness. So, I tried to get through it alone in that first week post-surgery but then my mum flew up from Sydney and took care of me for a week because I was pretty immobile.

That was a valuable lesson early on for me. The best thing an injured player can do probably is to reach out to someone to talk.

Whether it’s your parents – which was probably the case for me – or your close mates, it’s just conversing and sharing what you’re going through.

I’m fairly lucky in my team that there’s another player, Thallon Peters - who’s come from the Central Queensland Capras - who is about a month in front of me in his own recovery from an ACL rupture. When I’m going through the next steps, I will ask, ‘did you feel like this at this time?’

To hear what he has to say, it makes me feel at ease.

The last eight months have all been about getting the knee ready for the next steps.

At first it was just a daily task of ensuring I was trying to stretch the knee. You’re trying to get full extension and also trying to gain muscle back on it, so you’re working the muscles to fatigue and getting the extension at the same time.

You’re asking a lot from your injured leg so for me it was trying to control my thoughts. Like I said, I’m really impatient. The hardest part was managing my expectations.

I was thinking by six months I should be good but that wasn’t the case. In all the talks with the professionals, they’re trying more and more to steer away from bringing people back as quick as possible. They want them to go a bit longer to be prepared and that’s what I’ve done.

So, I’ve just joined back in the team with skills and drills. Hopefully in the next month I’ll be cleared for full change of direction and contact. Then the ideal timeline or “tick of approval” is Round 4 for Hostplus Cup.

Siolo in 2023 pre-season. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Siolo in 2023 pre-season. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

I actually saw my surgeon last week and he gave me confidence and said I’m tracking exactly how I should be.

Now, I just want to get back on the field. I want to earn my spot, not just be given it. But the first step is to get back on the field.

The toughest part for me over the past eight months has been watching the boys train and watching them play.

For me 2023 was real hard because I thought we had a really strong team to go well and truly deep into the finals, if not all the way. We made it to week two of finals, which we can still be proud of, but it was tough not being able to help from an on-field perspective.

Even now in pre-season, that’s the hardest part for me, is trying to watch from the sidelines. Last week, I was nagging the physio to be like, ‘I could jump into this one or jump into that one.’

I’m just trying to be patient with it all. Which I think has helped me in terms of my biggest takeaway from this whole experience. The biggest lesson is definitely around gratitude.

When I was mobile before the injury, you take being able to move around and do what you want - simple things like taking my dog for a walk or going for a swim or getting out of bed – for granted. This injury has made me more grateful to do those things now I’m more mobile.

I’m super grateful for what I have.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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