NOLA Gold-back Nick Feakes returns to Canberra before his Major League Rugby return | Canberra Times

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Nick Feakes felt like he was stuck in the shadows. Forced to undergo two surgeries and a cleansing of his knee while watching from a distance his NOLA Gold teammates play a Major League Rugby season without him. Life in The Big Easy was anything but. The 26-year-old missed posing in a white and gold jersey as he looked up at the U.S. flag as The Star-Spangled Banner ran out around a 10,000-seat stadium called the “Gold Mine” in Louisiana. It’s a moment he never imagined when he grew up playing junior rugby in Canberra for the Uni-Norths Owls – but it’s a moment that utilities can not wait to live out again. Feakes is back in Canberra for the first time since Christmas 2016 and booked flights on a whim a week and a half ago as soon as he heard that international borders were opening up. MORE SPORTS It feels like he’s been away from home “forever”. But what about his return to the football field in New Orleans? “I wish it started now,” Feakes said. That’s why you might have seen him do fitness work with Gold teammate and former ACT Brumby Robbie Coleman at Campese Oval in Queanbeyan this week. “It’s funny I used to see him when I was 13, 14, 15, whatever,” Feakes said. “He’s probably my best buddy over there for NOLA. It’s been great to see him, he’s just had a baby, it’s been great to train a little with him.” Both are freeing themselves from front cruciate ligament cracks, desperate to return to the United States to play their part in a newly launched rugby competition that has already lured people like Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ma’a Nonu and Mathieu Bastareaud into its ranks. Although the Feaks have barely seen a minute of action over the last two seasons. He reached just two games before the 2020 season was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so he took a chance in Bermuda at a World Cup in the 10s. The prototype series designed to get 10-man rugby going, assembled teams in three tournaments over a month. It was there that Feakes was on the receiving end of a late hit that made his body twist and bend in a way it was never designed to do. “It just tore [my knee] all up, “Feakes said.” Unfortunately, another guy on my team in New Orleans did his at the same tournament, so I think we’re all banned from going back to any 10-man tournaments. “It’s almost a year since I did it. It took forever, I had two surgeries and removed a bit of scar tissue. It was unfortunately a bit of a shocking injury.” Feakes mixed his rehabilitation program with a role as the club’s under 18-year-old coach, took free rein over New Orleans’ youth development program, and started a consulting firm to help international students travel to the states to study on rugby scholarships that Feakes had. But all the while, he counted the minutes down to his comeback. Now it’s closer than ever with the new season starting in February. “It’s a bit of a tough place to be because you’re part of the team, but you do not get the same sense of camaraderie or to make those connections and feel like one of the boys. [like you would] if you trained, “Feakes said.” You do all your rehab and your gym separately, but you’re in the same building. You’re part of the team, but you’re not really. It was obviously hard to feel like you missed making those connections and felt like you were one of the boys. “It was pretty hard mentally. I did my best to try to be as big and the best part of the team as possible, but it’s still hard when you’re there, but you’re not there.” You’re almost kind of sitting and looking in the shade. It was definitely hard, in terms of team culture, it was the biggest thing I missed that year. “I have not felt like part of the team for so long, so it will be nice to get out there on the training fold again and feel like you are one of the boys again and you can do everything they can.” It’s such a long low season too, so you have so much time to take off after the season. I wish it started now, I’m looking forward to getting out there again and feeling part of the team again. “Our journalists are working hard to deliver local, up-to-date news to the local community. How to continue to access our reliable content:



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