Hooker pins hopes on comeback

By Hayley Pointon

Birtinya’s Maeriana Tumai never imagined getting the opportunity to trial for the Queensland Reds Super W rugby team, let alone thought she was good enough to be selected.

Fast-forward to now, the 21-year-old former USC Barbarians forward has just come off the back of a hard yet rewarding season with the Reds’ 15-a-side women’s team, which went all the way to the grand final.

Tumai, who now plays for Wests in Brisbane, said she decided at the last minute to trial for the Super W team at the end of last year, and was selected in the 40-woman squad.

“I was just a uni girl looking for fun on the field, and now I’m here, so yeah it’s a bit crazy,” she said.

Tumai did not make the run on team, but she said having the opportunity to be in such an elite squad was rewarding enough.

“It was such an eye-opening experience training alongside women who have represented Australia at competitions like the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics,” she said.

“That’s what I’m most thankful for.”

Just four weeks out from the grand final, Tumai suffered a tear to her left ATFL and two heel fractures: injuries that proved season-ending for the aspiring hooker’s debut.

“I was at Reds training,” she said. “We were in a maul, my foot was planted heal up, toe on the ground, and someone’s full body weight landed on the back of my heel, crushing my foot.

“I’ve been in it [moon boot] for about six weeks now, so fingers crossed that my next MRI comes out clean and I’ll be out of the boot and be able to get into some hard rehab.”

Tumai has her sights set high for the 2020 season, hoping to become fitter and stronger to requalify for the team at trials in November.

“I want to be stronger, I want my throws to be stronger, my pills into a line out to be stronger,” she said. “I just want everything to be stronger.

“I am quite a strong person, but hard work is going to get me to the abilities that I want to be at.

“My goal is I want a starting spot, I want to be in that top 30: that’s the end goal for me.”

It will be a long road ahead for Tumai, whose scans this week will determine her comeback timeline.

Ideally, she said she would like to get the all clear, start rehab and be back on the field as soon as possible.

“Weeks is my preferred timeline, but all depends how I go with rehab and whatever else,” she said.

USC Barbarians physiotherapist Brigitte Grofski said a grade two tear to the ATFL was a serious injury.

“Usually 50-75 per cent of the fibres are torn,” Grofski said. “This means you have more laxity of this ligament which means more range of your ankle joint.”

She said rehab for a grade two ATFL sprain required a lot of work to reduce inflammation and to help restore the range of motion.

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