WARATAHS winger Lachie Turner is adamant he is well recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of last season and plans to return to the field next year faster and fresher.
After the Waratahs finished 11th on the Super Rugby ladder, Turner and his teammates yesterday prepared for their shot at redemption under new coach Michael Cheika by running up the gut-busting 210 steps at South Coogee, a hell of a place that has humbled generations of famous footballers.
''It was tough and I definitely didn't try to count each step because I think I would've felt dizzy and fainted if I did that,'' Turner said. The 25-year-old speedster realised the session was an important step in the franchise's concerted campaign to win back fans.
Turner said his troublesome hamstring was strong again.
''It didn't stem from anywhere, it's what they call a contact injury,'' he said. ''I was just caught in a bad spot and it 'went'. I haven't had to change [my running technique] because [surgeon] David Wood … did an incredible job. When it first happened they said I could miss six to nine months but, thanks to him and the work by the Waratahs staff, I was back in four.
''The work we did in-house was phenomenal and I haven't had to change anything. I don't think when I look back on the injury it'll prove to have been a major hinderance to my career. In fact, I think I can get quicker because David said to me there was a strong possibility I'd only get back to 98 per cent, but my view is I haven't hit top pace yet.
''I definitely think my hamstring and legs are far stronger than they were prior to the injury and it's only a matter of getting the speed back and the fast-twitch fibres functioning. Once that falls into line I think I'll definitely be faster.''
After his unwelcome stretch in the outer the former Wallaby said his mind was definitely fresher.
''Last year was important [to me] because I was taking a lot for granted,'' he said. ''[My hamstring] was a wake-up to me because it's not until you don't have something that you realise how lucky you are. I was was almost becoming a bit stale … the little joys of the little things were escaping me … and now I look back on them, like the ability to impact on other people's lives and causing emotion in other people, were what I missed and they rekindled the passion.''
His time among the supporters allowed for him to see the game through their eyes.
''You can see opportunities and threats and styles you don't see when you're involved in the second-by-second action,'' Turner said.
''For a lot of our play last year I thought we did about 90 per cent very well, it was just that 10 per cent … there were definitely games, times and periods when we didn't put that extra 10 per cent in, I think over the year we struggled to find the extra 10 per cent - and that's executing the little things. It wasn't a big thing, a lot of it is due to confidence and it is something we're working hard on to turn around.''