Rugby League

Canberra Raiders NRL preview: 'Superman' Shaun Fensom primed to take flight

"I might just have a higher pain threshold than other people."

A ball hasn't been kicked yet this NRL season, but Canberra Raider Shaun Fensom already has understatement of the year locked up. 

Shaun Fensom is returning from a broken arm which left him with 10 screws and a metal plate in his left arm.
Shaun Fensom is returning from a broken arm which left him with 10 screws and a metal plate in his left arm. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Fensom is now officially the Green Machine's "Man of Steel" after he had a plate and 10 screws inserted in his left forearm after breaking it in a pre-season scrimmage. 

He displaced it lifting weights the next day and nonchalantly turned to a teammate - "I think I've broken it".

It's the latest in a string of chapters where Fensom has defied all logic on the amount of distress the human body should be able to tolerate. 

The question no one has been able to nail down is - how has he cultivated this superhero-like indifference to pain?

Fensom believes it was born in the sleepy Coffs Harbour coastal village Mylestom. 

As a kid his elder brothers, Anthony and Matthew, would rough him up playing football in the family backyard. 

Shaun Fensom during the Canberra Times' Raiders season guide photoshoot.
Shaun Fensom during the Canberra Times' Raiders season guide photoshoot. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Fensom wanted to impress them and refused to crack just because he was smaller, an adage he uses to this day against the NRL's biggest packs. 

"They bashed me around a bit when I was growing up, it could have stemmed from there," Fensom said.

"I wanted to prove myself to them, they'd tackle me and make me do all the stupid things they were too smart to do.

"Usually on the field I don't want to let my teammates down, so I try and push through everything I can. 

"I know if I pull out I'll be letting them down so I just push through the pain."

Fensom tore his anterior cruciate ligament late in the 2014 season, but recovered faster than a speeding bullet to play round one the next year. 

He broke his wrist in the opening round of 2013 but played with it the very next week. "I'm not real fussed. I'll just strap it up and get on with it," he said at the time.

Ask him about his broken arm, and he tells the story like someone else may recount stubbing their toe. 

"Everyone thought I was joking, I was on the bench pull machine and swore," he said. 

"Someone asked what's wrong and I said 'I've broken my arm'.

"When I put it up on the table [at the doctor's], old mate came out and said 'don't move your arm too quickly, you've got a bad fracture.

"I'm really strict in my rehab at the start of my injury and try and turn a six-week injury into a three-week injury.

"I've got a list of injuries, it's probably not good to put it in the paper for the young kids aspiring to play footy, but that's just part and parcel of how we play the game."

In an age of flashy ball-playing back rowers, the lock is more old school than the replica phone booth he posed in for this story at Canberra suburb Turner. 

He is hopeful 80-minute players with big work rates like himself will become even more valuable this year, with interchanges reduced from 10 to eight per team. 

"A lot of clubs have apparently been doing extra fitness so their big boys can punch out bigger minutes, but going from 10 to eight is a big change I think," he said. 

"We're fortunate our side has a lot of boys with big motors, so it's going to play a part and it's interesting to see how it goes."

Fensom is entering his eighth year of first grade at Canberra and feels he is finally about to be rewarded for that loyalty. 

The Raiders squad is the strongest in years and the two-time Mal Meninga medallist reckons they're about to cash in.

"This roster we've got at the moment is a very promising squad and I'm very excited to be a part of it and the new culture we're bringing to Canberra," he said. 

"I think it's going to bring us success."

Fensom got married in October and says he's "always harping on to his missus" about exploring outback Australia in his down time. 

"I like four wheel driving, camping and fishing, I like to get out in the bush," he said. 

"Australia's a big, beautiful place and I'm always harping to my missus to have holidays in remote places, but she's not a fan of not having a toilet and that sort of thing."

There's an old joke which goes:  "Chuck Norris and Superman had an arm wrestle. The loser had to wear their undies on the outside."

You could replace Chuck's name with Fensom and, much like his broken arm, no one would notice. 

Pick up your Canberra Raiders season guide in Thursday's The Canberra Times.