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Player injury diary: Ethan Sweet

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, young Mackay Cutters forward Ethan Sweet shares his story as he returns from a shoulder reconstruction following his debut year in the Hostplus Cup in 2023.

Player injury diary: Ethan Sweet

"It’s an old cliché, but the saying 'good things take time' is certainly something I have learnt a lot about over the past eight and a bit months," he said.

"Last season was shaping up to be a bit of a breakout year for me – I made my Hostplus Cup debut in Round 6 for the Mackay Cutters and I really felt like I was starting to make some strides in the squad.

"But, when I was up to my fourth game and we were playing against Sunny Coast in Round 12, I came down hard and awkwardly on my shoulder after taking a run.

"I knew straight away I’d done something significant, but I wasn’t sure what.

"I had a bit of a break from the game, saw the surgeon and they said I needed surgery. It turns out I’d torn my labrum along with some other issues.

Sweet in action in Round 18. Photo: Ben van Moolenbroek/QRL
Sweet in action in Round 18. Photo: Ben van Moolenbroek/QRL

"They said I could probably still play with it so I gave it a go and I played two more games in Rounds 18 and 19 before my surgery date. 

"But I already had my eye on this season and knew that if I wanted to play as much footy as possible in 2024, I had to get the surgery done to be back in time.

"I lined it up thinking I would be back for the start of the season but it ended up being a bit later.

"I actually needed a whole shoulder reconstruction in the end – turns out I did a pretty good job of it.

"The surgery was in August last year and I was in a sling for about 12 weeks. It was a tough period with no running and to be honest, not very comfortable.

"Slowly but surely, I started to build back up. I have worked hard on my rehab, following the advice of the physios and seeing my surgeon every couple of months.

"I have finally started my return to contact. It was probably a bit later than I anticipated – about a month later - but the surgeon and I spoke, and we were both in agreement to give it an extra month more than what we originally thought to give it the best chance possible.

"The injury just needed a little bit more time to heal.

"This was my first major injury. I’ve gotten off pretty well in my career so far and when it happened, I was a little bit down in the dumps but I was also pretty quick to get over it.

"There were a couple days where I was really sore but the fact that I got the surgery done a month or so after the injury, it gave me the time to adjust my way of thinking.

Ethan Sweet: 'My main goal is to debut for Cup'

"I'm focused on getting stronger and fitter for when I come back.

"Overall, having the time off was probably good for me as I'm right into my fishing and camping, so this allowed me to enjoy those things for a little bit longer than the normal off-season.

"It’s been a long process but all it’s done is bring me back hungrier for that spot.

"I’m comfortable with it now and hopefully only two weeks away from coming back, potentially through A-grade first.

"It’s shown me you don’t have to rush it. You have to be happy with where you are and what you’re building towards.

"That was the biggest challenge for me, trying to focus on the now and not looking too far into the future.

"I’m only 20 so I’m pretty young. I have a lot of years of rugby league left.

"I’ve been focusing on just getting my shoulder strong and knowing within myself that I have those years to come in the game.

"Last year was a tough season for our team but the positive was that there were so many opportunities for younger players to step up to Cup. I have been lucky and reaped the benefits.

"The Mackay Cutters have been amazing and have supported me throughout my journey and I can’t wait to get back out there again and represent our club.

"This year, it’s a really strong squad and I’m really hungry for the opportunity to make that spot mine again."

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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