When Aaron Woods went down against Newcastle two weeks ago, so did the morale of 7.5 million New South Welshmen hoping to recapture the State of Origin shield in 2016.
An aggravated left ankle had the inspirational Wests Tigers forward looking at four to six weeks on the sidelines, putting grave doubts into his Origin I hopes on 1 June.
Woods got his recovery boot off just last Friday, and is just over two weeks into his rehabilitation. He remains realistic, yet optimistic, about his chances to line up at ANZ Stadium in a sky blue jersey.
“It’s getting there, I’m really happy at the moment,” Woods told NSWRL.com.au.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t thinking about [Origin], but I’ve just got to get back and playing good footy for the Tigers first.
“I’m looking to get back Round 10, which gives me a couple of weeks before Origin, so hopefully I can get a couple of runs under the belt and Laurie selects [me].”
Woods is treating his injury as a day-by-day process to get back onto the field as early as possible.
He says it’s been difficult because they had to get the swelling out of the ankle, and it is such a tough spot due to the fact that there is not much fat around that area of the body at the moment.
While the rehabilitation seems to be progressing nicely, there is a chance he won’t feature in the first Origin match, and if so, he completely backs the other forwards to fill the void and do the job for New South Wales.
“The biggest thing that Laurie [Daley] has brought to New South Wales is that if you’re not there, there’s always going to be someone to fill your role,” Woods said.
“With the camps at the start of the year, [Daley] loads a lot of information in you, so you’re not just walking into a cauldron where you’ve got no idea what’s happening.
“When you do come into camp, you know what you’re talking about and you know where you’ve got to [go] when you’re doing your set plays at training or when you’re away from it.”
Woods only recently turned 25 years old, and he is considered a long-term player and leader of the NSW VB Blues.
Paul Gallen and Robbie Farah have been, and will continue to be the inspirational leaders and wonderful players for the VB Blues, and are paving the way for young-guns like Woods to form their own leadership qualities with the team.
Those leadership qualities are shown through his footballing ability, willingness to continually put his body on the line for NSW, and help inspire his teammates at such a young age.
“I just want to do my best for the team, if that’s leading then hopefully I can take the ball up and make my tackles just inspire the boys to do the best I can,” Woods said.
If Woods does return in Round 10, he will be immediately tested by the dominant Bulldogs forward pack, followed by a match against Newcastle – the team he got injured against - which would almost certainly give him enough game time under his belt and confidence to play Origin I.