Ryan tackles his injury demons ahead of career-saving surgery

Redskins forward Ryan Halliday is being forced to put his feet up as he awaits an operation on an injury sustained during last season's Shield final
Redskins forward Ryan Halliday is being forced to put his feet up as he awaits an operation on an injury sustained during last season's Shield final

RANGERS and Scotland striker Steven Naismith’s season was cut short last month after he suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage.

Early predictions are that the 25-year-old’s rehabilitation will be around eight or nine months –and that’s with the very best medical support around him.

Sadly for 21-year-old Ryan Halliday, who suffered a similar injury while making a try-saving tackle for Hawick YM in the National Shield final back in April, the light at the end of his tunnel of his injury hell isn’t as bright.

The young forward doesn’t have the doctors and surgeons at his disposal like Naismith. What he does have though is a strong desire to be back playing again – for his beloved Redskins.

Ryan had been an ever-present in the YM side last year – missing just one game – helping them stay undefeated in the league and playing a pivotal role as they booked their place at Murrayfield.

He had just come off the bench with 15 minutes left in the first half as the YM defended their line desperately.

Recalling the moment he suffered his horrific injury, Ryan said: “As I went into a tackle, maybe ten metres away from the line, the player stepped inside. I was holding him so my body went with him but my leg stayed where it was and twisted my knee round the wrong way.

“As soon as I did it I knew that was it for the day and there was no way of playing on, but I never thought it was going to be as bad as this. Even after the game back home I never thought it was going to end up this way.”

Ryan was fitted with a full leg brace, which he wore for eight weeks. He went to physio once a week and, after the eight weeks, continued with the physio and started going to the gym three times a week to build up the muscles in his leg.

Doctors had warned him not to expect to be back playing this season, but he had pencilled in a return to training after Christmas, with a view to featuring in the spring sevens competitions.

That was until recently, when his plans were thrown completely up in the air.

He explained: “When the results came through it proved a lot worse than first thought. I’d badly strained my medial collateral ligament, actually lifting it off the bone slightly, and also tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which is the worst one. I also had a lot of bad bruising round the head of my fibula from the impact of my two bones hitting together.”

For someone who has played rugby all his life – winning the Under-15 Scottish Cup with the Albion and the Border Semi-Junior League and Kings of the Sevens title with the Wanderers – the choice facing him was simple – give up the sport he has played all his years or save his career with an operation.

In the end it was a no brainer for the young plumber.

“The answer, of course, was I wanted to play rugby. I’m only 21,” he said. “Then I was told I needed to go for an operation, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to play.

“I think I was more worried that it was going to be longer off rugby than the fact I was getting surgery. It’s just gutting when you think you’re improving, albeit slowly, and then you’re back at stage one.”

Ryan is hoping to go under the knife early in January, when he will receive surgery to both his ligaments; and have his medial collateral screwed back to the bone and ACL reconstruction, which will involve removing the damaged ligament, making a new one from part of his hamstring and then screwing the new ligament in place.

And, after admitting he isn’t the best spectator, he has already set his sights on a return date.

He said: “A nine-month full recovery time has been said to allow the new ligament to fully heal so I’m looking to be back playing in September or October next year, but hopefully I’ll get training a bit earlier.”