Back in March, we announced that Ranger Danger (aka Rene Ranger) would be returning to Auckland in 2016 after a two-year stint at French club Montpellier.
It’s an understatement to say our Blues fans were delighted, not to mention North Harbour who gained the explosive back for this year’s ITM Cup season.
Rene has described his return to New Zealand an “easy transition,” especially coming back to the region that helped make this All Black and Blues man.
“My family are really happy and it’s great to back amongst my mates,” said Rene. “I’m loving the environment at Harbour.”
However, Rene’s return to the playing field hasn’t been quite as smooth. While in France, Rene suffered a prolapsed disc in his neck. It compressed a nerve, which stopped the electrical impulse from travelling down his arm and significantly weakened it.
Some of these injuries improve over time, but unfortunately in Rene’s case it wasn’t. He underwent surgery at the beginning of May back in France with surgeons removing part of the disc and inserting a plate to fuse the vertebrae above and below together.
Six weeks later, Rene was on a plane back to New Zealand to begin rehabilitation with North Harbour doctor Ian Stewart and Blues and North Harbour physio Ash Draper.
His rehab has focused on building upper body and neck strength to minimise the chance of further injuries. As with a lot of big injuries, the rehab is long and methodical – a rare opportunity to work on other lingering niggles as well.
“A longer-term injury is an opportunity for a player to come back fitter, stronger and more robust than they were before,” said Ash. “Not playing every week means Rene doesn’t have the contact load that other players have and can focus on his conditioning and rehab.”
Although Rene isn’t back playing yet, he’s been involved in full team trainings for the past month doing everything apart from contact.
“It’s been really good for all of us having Rene involved – even though he isn’t playing he contributes a lot to the team and is a good character to have around,” said Ash.
Rene has a review with the specialist next week and, if scans look good he’ll be graduated to contact training with a view to return during the ITM Cup.
“I love playing the game, whether it’s ITM Cup or Super Rugby and to be honest I just want to get out there,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back on the paddock.”
Neither can we Rene.