A Tuesday date with a surgeon will determine whether Australia will have one of their most potent weapons on the field at the Sydney Sevens next month.
By rights, Olympic gold medallist Ellia Green should still be on the rehab table after a shoulder reconstruction less than four months ago, given the best-case scenario for recovery from such a procedure is usually six months.
But Green, the flashy powerhouse of the gold medal-winning Australian women’s sevens team, hasn’t stared down many challenges in her life without them withering under her gaze, and the prospect of missing a historic first world series tournament on home soil was enough fuel to fire a miraculous recovery.
“I don’t know if it’s my Fijian bones or because when I lived in Fiji my mum used natural herbal healing remedies … maybe that’s helped my body because I’m naturally a fast healer,” the former sprinter said.
“I’ve also been training a lot since I was young, so maybe I have a strong base to work with – that’s what the surgeon said anyway.”
Green resumed training with the Pearls squad at their base in Narrabeen last week, but meets orthopaedic surgeon Dr Graeme MacDougal on Tuesday for the clearance to start light contact work, a crucial step in her return to playing.
Her addition to the Australian squad for the Sydney Sevens on February 3 would be a major boost for the reigning Olympic and world series champions, whose title defence is off to a shaky start after losing to arch-rivals New Zealand in the series-opening leg in Dubai last month.
Green has spent the past few months keeping herself in top shape and analysing footage from Rio and the Dubai sevens. She believes the game – on the men’s and women’s circuit – will be faster than ever before, with a heavy trend towards offloads.
“Coming into the Tokyo Olympics 2020, I reckon a lot of men’s and women’s teams will be playing an offload game,” she said.
“Fiji [men’s gold medallists] has led by example in that style and I noticed a lot of teams in Dubai playing that kind of structure. And then the speed in general, it’s just getting faster and faster and will continue to do so. The younger girls coming up will be faster and stronger than ever before.”
As the Pearls’ speedster, the Fijian-born former 100-metre and 200-metre sprinter will face stiff competition in that regard, but she is backing her body and mind to come back stronger and faster than ever.
“It is very depressing, but I also saw it as a time to work on my weaknesses, mentally and physically,” she said. “I’ve been doing a lot of cardio on the bike and the elliptical and then I’ve been going heavier on the legs. I never see injury as a whole-body thing, it’s a good chance to balance out other things.”
There is nothing like a long spell in rehab to refocus an athlete, and Green says the prospect of playing in front of her mother and friends in Sydney was a powerful motivator.
“You really don’t realise how much you miss it until you’re out of it,” she said. “Some days your body feels sore and you keep on going on, but when I wasn’t doing it, I really missed it.
“Sydney Sevens has really motivated me, even though I don’t know if I’ll be OK for it. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t make it, there’s still [Las Vegas] coming up after it, but Sydney would be the event I’d really want to play. It’s not often our families get to see us play, so it will be huge.”
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