WILL GENIA is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury and, after four months on the sideline, he believes the time away from the field has become a blessing in disguise.
Genia only returned to training three weeks ago, having torn his anterior cruciate ligament in the Test match against South Africa in September, and is expected to be playing again within three months. His long lay-off forced him to miss the Wallabies' spring tour of Europe last year but gave him the rare chance to participate in the Reds' pre-season camp and time to take his mind off the game.
Genia was speaking at a promotional game of touch football between a selection of Wallabies players and British backpackers, where it appeared the Wallabies' injury woes of last year could have reared their heads again. Waratahs lock Kane Douglas rolled his ankle after scoring a try and was forced to sit out the rest of the match with his ankle iced and elevated.
''I reckon the injury for me is definitely a blessing in disguise,'' Genia said. ''Obviously I'd like to be playing as much as I can but it's given me time off. The last three, four years I've been playing a lot of rugby, almost every game of Super Rugby and almost every Test. To have the opportunity to have a complete mental break from preparing to play and playing as well has been quite refreshing for me and I've enjoyed it.''
Genia said he is enjoying being part of the early stages of the Reds' Super Rugby pre-season campaign which he normally is forced to miss through national team duty.
''Spending time with just the guys you wouldn't normally spend during pre-season, you build better relationships and you build more bonds,'' Genia said. ''To see how the boys have been working quite hard and then you see the Wallabies guys come back from the spring tour and the level does go up and the intensity, the skill level and everything.''
Genia has been running for the past three weeks, completing distances of three kilometres four times a week while running in straight lines to strengthen his knee. He hopes he may be able to fast track his return to the playing field.
''I think mentally it's been the hardest,'' Genia said.
''Physically things come back quite quickly in terms of the process but mentally to get into your head that you've got to do every little thing really well so that the knee can heal and you give it time. Especially when you sit down and watch the boys play, that's quite tough as well.''
His Reds teammate, Quade Cooper, is preparing for his boxing debut against Barry Dunnett and Genia says that his fellow half is experiencing a positive effect as a result of his added commitments.
''If anything, he seems more focused than I've ever seen him, having to do both, which sounds weird,'' Genia said.
''You got Quade obviously with his boxing match but I have to take my hat off to Quade, he's exceptional, he's balancing professional boxing training with professional rugby training and playing full-time. He comes dressed in boxing attire to team meetings then chucks on his Reds kit and comes out and trains.''