By Adam Lucius
Manly Oval will be the scene of a remarkable and emotional comeback on Saturday as former captain Kotoni Ale makes a shock return after 12 months out of the game.
The workaholic No.7 returns to action at the same ground against the same opposition – Warringah - where on May 30 last year he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of the ankle as well as soft tissue damage.
No-one who was at the ground that day or watching on TV will forget the moment Ale buckled under a tackle and didn’t move for an hour before being taken off the field and straight to hospital.
But despite the damage, he never gave up hope of playing again as he endured a year of extensive rehab after his operation..
“It’s been a tough road but I’ve got a good network of people around me – friends, family, people at the club and work – that have helped me every step of the way,” he said.
“I think my partner would like me to re-think it (playing again) but I’ve still got that desire and hunger.
“I feel as though there is unfinished business. I want to lace up the boots again and get back out there.
“I am a little bit nervous but I’m also excited.
“I guess it’s a case of déjà vu. It’s the same opposition at the same ground 12 months on but there is no fear in my mind.”
It took a while for Ale to watch the incident on replay.
Asked his thoughts a year on, he said with a smile: “I should have passed the ball.
“It was just one of those freakish things that can happen on a football field.
“That’s all in the past now. The ankle feels really good. I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Coach Damien Cummins is yet to decide whether Ale will start the game or come off the bench.
Turtle is just delighted to see his former skipper back in action.
He said: “It’s a great effort to come back from such an injury.
“Some people said Kotoni would never play again but he was determined to get back. He’s done all the rehab and ticked all the boxes.
“It’s a massive lift for us. Kotoni is a next level player and a great leader.”