Recovery pain for Force five-eighth
JAMES Stannard has learnt the hard way that things don't some easy in Super 15 rugby.
The Western Force half is four weeks into his recovery from an operation on an ankle injured in his team's round six match with the Queensland Reds.
The injury came just as Stannard, a five-eighth turned halfback, and his team had found some form.
"It's coming along well," the former St Edmund's College student said of his ankle.
"I got rid of the crutches on Monday. I've started putting weight on it and it's feeling good."
Stannard ruptured his syndesmosis in the Force's 45-19 win over the Reds on March 31.
For several years, Stannard was considered the emergency fill-in during two stints with the Force and one with the ACT Brumbies.
This year he was handed the number 10 jersey from the start and had made significant progress, guiding his team to a win over NSW and getting them into a strong position against the Reds before calamity struck.
Needless to say, the Karalee product has not enjoyed himself in the past month.
"It's the pits," he said of being injured. "I've just been sitting in front of Foxtel catching up on a bit of reality TV and putting on some fat."
The form the Force was starting to show only makes it worse.
"We started getting a roll on in the weeks before with a win over the Tahs (NSW Waratahs)," Stannard said.
"And we started getting a game plan we could play to.
"So I was shattered."
Since then, the Force haven't won a game, injuries have continued to bite and their coach Richard Graham has been sacked.
"We've been shattered with a few injuries," Stannard said.
"Having a different team every week doesn't help."
Graham was released by the club after announcing he'd signed with the Queensland Reds for next season.
While injuries are unpreventable, the decision to sack Graham came from the playing group. "The senior players put it to the rest of the group and came up with a decision (to finish the season without Graham)," Stannard said.
"There were no hard feelings.
"But as a club we need to start moving forward and preparing for next season.
"It was the best thing for the club and the playing group."
There has been talk that Force captain David Pocock may follow Graham back to Queensland, where he went to high school, or another Super rugby team.
But Stannard doubts it.
"If I was a betting man, I'd bet on him to stay," Stannard said.
"His wife is from Perth.
"But I don't know."