Anthony Don fighting to be fit for season opener
ANTHONY Don has made his peace with the pink bib that is the pre-season fashion accessory of the slightly incapacitated but the Titans winger concedes he is counting down the days when he can discard it and resume full training.
The Titans' player of the year in 2017 endured a horror off-season that included a bout of pancreatitis, a fourth shoulder reconstruction and then an infection in the shoulder that required further surgery to rectify.
It has left him racing the clock to be fit for round one against the Raiders but the laconic winger told foxsports.com.au that he won't be too disappointed if his start to the 2018 season is delayed by a week or so.
The 30-year-old dislocated his right shoulder for a second time against the Knights in Round 2 last season but was back on the field a month later, going on to receive a coveted Country Origin jersey and score 12 tries in 20 games for the Titans.
Happy to keep having his shoulder repaired until the day he has to retire, Don conceded that the follow-up surgery to clear up the infection was his greatest mental challenge.
"When I dislocated it last year I knew what I was going to have to go through so it was quite easy to get my head around it," said Don.
"I love playing footy and doing it as a job so I can easily get a surgery to keep doing that but the infection threw me a bit.
"I was three weeks into my recovery and I was feeling really good and then I had to go back to way worse straight after surgery.
"That's what threw me the most. I got quite sick in the off-season as well before my shoulder surgery with pancreatitis so I'd already been in hospital for a few nights.
"The last thing I felt like doing was going back for another surgery but I didn't have any other option.
"They cleaned out all the gunk and pus in my shoulder and I was on a drip for a few nights to try and kill the infection and I had to wear a bumbag around that was a line dropping antibiotics in near my heart, 24 hours a day for two weeks.
"The toughest part was when I couldn't do anything for two weeks because I was just bored out of my brain."
Given his history of shoulder problems Don's latest surgery is known as a Latarjet procedure that involves a bone graft from part of the shoulder blade and inserting it into the damaged socket with screws to prevent future dislocations.
It has a success rate of around 97 per cent with few complications and with both shoulders now having gone through the procedure Don is hopeful that once he returns he will have stability in both shoulders.
Having fought so hard during his career to earn a place in the Titans team for round one - a feat he only achieved for the first time in 2016 - Don is philosophical about playing the opening game of the 2018 season.
"That's my goal but I've still got a fair bit of time. I'm still aiming for it but it's not the end of the world if I don't play round one," said Don.
"In my mind I had to take it slow and not really worry about rushing back. I had to put it out of my mind and realise that if I get back early in the season then that's how it's got to be."
As for the dreaded pink bib indicates to teammates that you're not yet ready for the tough stuff, Don is eyeing off its removal.
"We get thrown it for a reason, so we're not getting tackled and wrestled and doing the contact stuff. It's just part of the process of getting back to full training," he said.
"Since Christmas it's felt really good and I've been able to push it.
"I don't know when the pink bib's going to come off but I'm starting to do contact and definitely on my way to full contact.
"Hopefully within the next month I'll be able to get it off but it's a bit of a progression so just got to keep ticking the boxes.
"If I took another knock I might get another setback so I don't mind it.
"And I think pink kind of looks good on me anyway."