Rugby Union


Lealiifano upbeat after surgery

A DEVASTATED Christian Lealiifano will draw inspiration from NSW Waratah Drew Mitchell's recovery from a broken ankle as he begins the painstaking six-month journey to get back on the field.

Lealiifano had surgery on his broken and dislocated ankle last week after his season came to an abrupt halt in the ACT Brumbies' win over the Waratahs at Canberra Stadium.

It came at the worst possible time for the talented playmaker with most predicting him to get a Wallabies call up next month.

But after being inundated by messages of support from players who had suffered similar injuries, Lealiifano was upbeat about his recovery.

Mitchell dislocated his ankle last year but made a miraculous return to play for the Wallabies at the World Cup.

He was one of several who spoke to Lealiifano with Colin Slade and Jono Lance also helping the 24-year-old come to grips with his injury.


Lealiifano is also using mentor Julian Huxley's recovery from a brain tumour to help him through the toughest time of his career.

''It's a freak thing that has happened and I believe these types of things happen for a reason,'' Lealiifano said.

''Hux came back from something far more serious than I've got and there are so much worse things in life than what I'm going through.

''Drew came to me when I was on the happy gas and just said that it's a long way back but he knew I would come back better and stronger from it.

''He's walking proof that you can get back and seeing guys being able to overcome it gives me a good outlook.''

Lealiifano is couch-bound for the next week until he gets his stitches out.

He will then have six weeks on crutches before slowly beginning his recovery.

Lealiifano's horror injury happened when his foot got caught under teammate Andrew Smith in the last minute of the clash with the Waratahs.

He still winces every time he sees the replay and describes it as ''yuk''.

In a sign of Lealiifano's popularity, the team then crowded around his stretcher in the medical room to sing the Brumbies' song after their victory.

He was in career best form and a key to the team's impressive resurgence. After spending the first period of his career playing behind Stephen Larkham and Matt Giteau, Lealiifano emerged as a key part of the back line.

The Brumbies went on an international search to find a replacement with Matt Toomua also out for the rest of the season.

Wallabies great Larkham was floated as a possible option and while Lealiifano was confident the backs coach would ''kill it'' if he made a comeback, he backed Zack Holmes and Robbie Coleman to step up at flyhalf.

The Brumbies have also recruited former Waratah Peter Hewat to add experience to their back line.

Lealiifano is targeting a return to the field for pre-season training.

''I'm loving the feel of the Brumbies at the moment and I just want to be a part of it,'' Lealiifano said. ''If I can come back for pre-season … I will be happy.''