Rugby was my life: Rathbone stands on the brink of a unique comeback
Back from the scrap heap … former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone is back with the Brumbies. Photo: Colleen Petch
CLYDE RATHBONE has assured his teammates he's ready to pull on a Brumbies jersey for the first time in three years.
Rathbone will run on to Canberra Stadium on Saturday night a reinvented man ready to help the Brumbies chase Super Rugby glory.
But he doesn't want to be known as ''the depression guy'' and says: ''I'm not here to make up the numbers'' in the opening round against the Queensland Reds.
Three years ago constant injuries forced him into premature retirement. Just a year ago he opened up publicly about his battle with depression.
But with a new perspective and a different attitude, he has redefined success for his rugby reincarnation.
He used to stress about the numbers - how many tries he scored, the metres he ran and games he played.
When things were going well, he was on top of the world. When he was struggling, his world crumbled because ''rugby was my life''.
''The one thing that I feel I have now that makes this game different is perspective,'' Rathbone said.
''Before my goals were so rugby-orientated that if I didn't achieve them, I was devastated. Now I've redefined what success is.
''It's not measured by numbers of caps or tries, it's about the difference you make in other people's lives. When I look back on this season, I don't want it to just be about what I've done on the field.''
A relaxed Rathbone needed only two words to convince Brumbies coach Jake White he was worthy of selection in the opening round of the season.
The winger, who has played 26 Tests for the Wallabies and 49 games for the Brumbies, will make his comeback complete when he lines up against the Reds.
It's been a massive turnaround from an overweight Rathbone to a fighting fit winger who looks capable of being just as destructive as he was in the prime of his career.
At the lowest ebbs of his fight with mental demons, Rathbone was 16 kilograms overweight and considered taking his own life. Then he decided to turn it all around.
White first approached Rathbone about a comeback in January last year. At the time, Rathbone declined after just going public about his fight against depression.
But after some secret testing at the Australian Institute of Sport with Brumbies athletic performance director Dean Benton in June, Rathbone took the first step on his path back to the top.
''I had been playing touch every Monday, but I didn't play a game of contact footy because of my face,'' Rathbone said.
''But to be honest, I don't feel the need to go out and do 100 tackles at training or stay out there longer than everyone else,'' he said. ''I've done this since I was six years old, if I haven't learnt it by now, I'm not going to. And I can't wait for that feeling of waking up the next day after the first game and my body feeling like I've just played.''
The 31-year-old has been inundated with messages of support in the lead-up to his return game.
White has a sense of occasion when it comes to Rathbone.
The South African mentor knows the veteran will get the biggest cheer of the night when he runs out of the tunnel and gets his first touch.
But if you think it's a token selection, you're wrong.
In fact, White and Rathbone's former Brumbies and Wallabies teammate Joe Roff said it can be one of the best seasons of his career.
''I'm excited to see those big tree trunks [legs] of his getting back on the field,'' Roff said.
''I think he epitomises the real culture of the Brumbies. He's had a harder road than most, he's shown enormous courage to overcome some challenges and he's done it for the right reasons.
''It used to be he would run through brick walls and injure himself from time to time. Now he's a lot more composed and self aware.
''The last Test I played with him he scored three tries against England - you don't lose that class.
''He probably has the potential to have the best season he's ever had.''
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