HULL FC captain Gareth Ellis has admitted for the first time that he thought his career might have been ended by the injury that continues to prevent him making his debut for the club.
The revered England international was their marque signing after returning to Super League following a brilliant four-year spell in the NRL with Wests Tigers.
However, he broke his left foot in the warm-up before their opening game at former club Leeds Rhinos on February 1 and has been sidelined since.
Ellis – twice voted the world’s best second-row – had a scan on the injured bone yesterday and, if the news is positive, could finally be back in action in as few as nine days.
Hull’s Challenge Cup fourth-round tie against Championship One part-timers North Wales Crusaders is seen as an ideal way to ease him back in.
Yet, having fractured the same foot in Australia last April, when a pin and rod had to be inserted forcing a problematic lay-off of almost four months, he revealed there was a point when he felt the damage this time may have been irreparable.
“I’ve always said the first feeling was of letting down everyone at Hull,” said Ellis.
“But then next, thinking I’d done an exact repeat of last year, I was fearing for my career, really.
“Having gone through so much to get back last year and then being back to square one...
“Fortunately, it wasn’t as severe this time and I’m on the road to recovery.
“I’ve been reading up and researching it on the internet and speaking to other people who have had similar injuries.
“It’s a very fragile fracture. It’s only a small bone, but it can cause a lot of problems and the re-fracture rate is very high. That’s why I want to make sure it’s right now.
“The disappointing thing was if it had been the first couple of games back from that last injury (in Australia) and had gone then, then I’d have accepted it as that was what they told me could happen.
“But the fact that I’d played eight games for Wests Tigers, done all the full pre-season work here at Hull, and had played two trial games only for it to happen at that moment, and on that night, was the disappointment. But that’s the way it goes.”
Fortunately, the 32-year-old did not need surgery in this instance.
Ellis was still expected to miss 12 weeks of Hull’s season, but if he gets the all-clear could return a week early and potentially face the Crusaders at the KC Stadium.
“It’s within my sights,” he admitted with Super League leaders Wigan Warriors tantalisingly being in West Hull the following Friday.
“I’m using an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill at Hull City and, basically, I’m just stepping the intensity up every other day.
“It’s a matter of running on that, seeing how I wake up the next day – anything sore, anything bothering me? – and let’s go up again.
“So far, I’ve not had any problems, but it’s about making sure I tick all the boxes.
“The closer it’s getting, the more eager I’m getting, but also the more nervous.
“I’m really anxious about playing and it’s important I tick all the boxes so I know that when I do come to that I know I’ve done everything possible to make sure I’m right when it comes to actually playing.”
Ellis confirmed: “There’ll be a nervous wait for the results of the scan, but I just want to see some improvement.
“I won’t know until I’ve pushed myself, but I’m in the hands of the physio staff and the specialist.
“I can tell them ‘I’m right, I’m right, I’m right’, but, at the end of the day, they know when that is, what will be safe and what’s best for the club as well; when I come back, I want to be back.”
The heralded capture of the former Leeds Rhinos star, ahead of competition from all Super League’s top clubs, combined with plenty of other player investment had stirred up a belief that Hull could bring some long-awaited silverware back to the KC in 2013.
However, Peter Gentle’s side have yet to get going, their nadir coming with a sobering Good Friday defeat against city rivals Hull KR, and they are outside the play-off places in ninth.
They have, though, responded since with wins over Wakefield Trinity and Catalan Dragons and there is real scope for a third successive victory at Salford this Sunday.
“It’s taken a bit of a negative and a look in the mirror from a lot of the players to say we’re probably not as good as we thought and need to knuckle down a bit,” admitted Ellis.
“But the reaction has been there and you can soon turn it around with a few wins. We’re looking to get on a bit of a roll now.”