Newcastle Knights young gun Phoenix Crossland has admitted a groin injury that hampered his pre-season took a toll on him mentally but he was able to lean on True Blue and Knights NRL captain Mitchell Pearce who has overcome plenty of hurdles during his Rugby League career.
Crossland, 19, missed a chunk of the Knights pre-season and said there were times in that period where he faced an uphill battle that took an emotional toll.
However, after a gruelling rehabilitation process that challenged him physically and mentally, he now returns to full fitness with a more resilient frame of mind.
It is a quality Crossland will be forced to draw on with the NRL season still suspended until May 28 while the NSWRL made the extremely tough decision to cancel the Canterbury Cup NSW because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything is good now but it was probably the most challenging point of my football life,” Crossland told NSWRL.com.au.
“There were a lot of bad days in there where I was getting angry at the process because it was a pretty slow rehab process, and that’s because it was an overload injury.
“It probably challenged me more mentally rather than physically.
“I’m young and fit, so I can do the training fairly well but it’s more the fact that I hadn’t had those setbacks yet so that was my first proper experience.”
“It was about 14 weeks and I missed all of the pre-season and getting back into playing two weeks before we’re told we’re not playing was tough.
“It’s more upstairs where it’s challenged me but I feel like I’ve come out the other end with more resilience, and if that ever happened again where I’m injured then I know how to deal with it.
“I’ve probably learned more in that experience than I have ever really.”
One of the players Crossland turns to for advice is Pearce, who has displayed resilience on countless occasions in his illustrious NRL career.
He lauded Pearce’s work ethic at training and admits it’s one of the most inspiring qualities that the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues halfback possesses.
“He’s awesome. He’s an extremely hard trainer so that’s one thing that I’ve taken from him, he’s played nearly 300 games but he still trains like he’s never played NRL before,” Crossland said.
“That’s probably the thing that I’ve noticed about ‘Ju’, but he’s a very humble man as well and he always has time for the younger boys, and not just me, but boys you would think don’t need help, like the front-rowers.
“They always look to him for advice on how to calm themselves down and how to play the game with patience.
“That why he’s the captain.”
Crossland has been earmarked as a star of the future after rising to prominence in the Knights junior system and earning representative honours with the NSW Under 16s, 18s and 20s squads in the last three years.
He looked to be in a three-way battle for the Knights no.6 jumper alongside Kurt Mann and Mason Lino before the injury cruelled his chances of adding to his one first-grade appearance at the start the season.
He reflects on the experience as one that will undoubtedly put him in a better position for the future and now has a better understanding of how to deal with adversity.
“I think it was just thinking about the long game, I’m only 19 years-old so fingers crossed I’ve got 10-15 more years in me (playing Rugby League),” he said.
”I felt like the 14 weeks flew by but during that time in that period, I felt like it was the longest 14 weeks ever.
“So, I think it was just keeping my mind on having a good year this year looking at the big picture and (looking at) where I want to be.
“I think when the right people tell you that stuff and the people closest to you, you trust them and take on board what they’re saying.”