Gareth Ellis: 'I felt like I'd let down everyone at Hull FC'
GARETH Ellis is a mixed bag of emotions right now.
The despair of that early February Friday night in Leeds still resonates fresh in his memory.
That feeling of utter deflation which washed over the 31-year-old as he sat, head in hands, in the Hull FC changing room as his team-mates took to the field for what should have been his dream debut, has faded, but it's not gone.
Almost three weeks on it's a more chipper Ellis who hobbles across the KC Stadium pitch on crutches for the club's official team photo.
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Rugby players being who they are, Ellis' attempts to navigate the chairs and take his seat are met with forked tongues.
Even for the club's marquee man, there's no easy ride.
Happy to be back among the players, Ellis looks more delighted than most at spending an hour at the KC.
And as he sits down for his first interview since fracturing his foot in the warm-up at Headingley, it's clear with each passing day his morale is lifting.
"Initially there was nothing but disappointment," explains Ellis in his customary frank and honest manner.
"There was the expectation of representing the club, the fans and this group of players and then to get the injury before I had even got started. I felt like I had let everyone down, none more so than the lads.
"It was really disappointing and it was hard to take.
"Now the dust has settled and my foot has started to feel better, I'm more positive and getting on with it. The key thing is to be patient."
Ellis' words almost seem like he's trying to convince himself.
As he talks of patience and not rushing back, his eyes tell a different story.
It's clear from his demeanour he's desperate to make his Hull debut as soon as possible.
The coaching staff speak of being bombarded constantly with questions by Ellis, with conditioner Paul Devlin currently receiving at least one email a day with requests about nutrition and exercises.
The England international may not be taking any chances with his rehab, but he's doing everything possible to make sure he uses every day out of action to his full advantage.
"Things are looking good at the minute and now it is a case of me being in the right condition physically and mentally when I come back," adds Ellis.
"Half the battle is to make sure when the foot is better I am in good shape to play, so by next week I'll get back into doing some training and doing what I can to get my fitness right."
Ellis is finding the inactivity difficult. Like most players, he's a frustrated spectator, although he's getting into the spirit of being a fan.
"I'm not good at watching at all. It helps if the team are winning, though," he explains. "Last year at Wests Tigers the team didn't win too many games while I was out injured and that was very frustrating to watch.
"It was nice to see the lads play well against Bradford.
"I didn't go to the St Helens game as I was resting with my foot up, but I was following the match like every other fan who wasn't there.
"I had the game on the radio and I was glued to my phone following what was happening on Twitter.
"It brings you back down to earth and makes you realise how lucky you are when you are playing."
Forced to wear a protective boot for the next month, Ellis' injury could have been worse than the 12-week diagnosis.
Fears of a season-ending injury were very real in the aftermath of his Headingley breakdown.
The small fracture to the same foot that boasts a pin and rod in it from breaking his foot at Wests will now need TLC from here on in.
Aware the onus has to be on precaution in the future, Ellis says he'll be doing everything possible to make sure there's no repeat of his current frustration again.
"The key thing is I got a little complacent with the injury last year," says Ellis. "This is a different injury, but on the same foot so it is obviously something I need to be aware of in the future.
"I need to make sure I do all the little things right like the ice sessions even when my foot feels good, so I make sure my foot is in the best condition.
"When you think about it 12 weeks is not only a big part of the season, but a big part of my three years here. It is a big chunk of that and I want to make sure this doesn't happen again."