Hull FC: How Aaron Heremaia's positive slant helped bring him back from serious injury
WITH his infectious smile and positive attitude Aaron Heremaia offers no indication he has just been through one of the most difficult years of his life.
The personification that a positive approach can overcome most hurdles, the 29-year-old’s demeanour portrays a figure recovering from a routine injury and with a determination to make up for lost time.
There has been nothing routine about 2012 for Heremaia, however.
Injured in his first run-out for Hull against Hull KR in the pre-season friendly, an initial month’s absence soon became much more serious when scans showed a neck injury which placed into question whether he would ever play rugby again.
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“I’m grateful to be able to walk again and to be able to play again,” says Heremaia, with that trademark smile still emblazoned across his face.
Tackling his injury head on, Heremaia’s commitment to his rehab and to life at Hull FC has drawn plaudits from his coach and team-mates alike.
Even in those early days when his career was in doubt, the former New Zealand international hooker never missed a day at training or a Hull game, travelling with the team across the country with supporting his new club his primary concern.
Having made his return to action against Warrington last week, speaking of his tough time is much easier with his Super League debut now behind him.
“The result last week wasn’t the one we wanted but for me it was so good to just get through the game,” explains Heremaia.
“There were some nervous moments for me during the game because my neck did get hurt a couple of times, but I came through and that was always the priority for me.
“Because I came through the game ok I know I will definitely be better for that run-out when I play this week.”
For all the bravado and confidence projected by Heremaia, he admits inside he was a whirlwind of emotions last week, fear being an overriding factor.
“I was nervous all week. I was more nervous for the game that has just gone than I was before playing in the Grand Final last year,” he said.
“I had done everything at training asked of me, my neck was strengthened and feeling right, but still those fears were there.
“I spoke to Horny, Andy Lynch and Tony Martin, because they’d all had the same sort of injury.
“They all said to have an early run in the game and get an early tackle in.
“I admit though I was trying to avoid every single scenario at first and I certainly passed the ball more to stay out of tackles. But now I’m through that I can concentrate on getting back to my normal game.”
Fearing his return and a collision which could damage his neck again and not only end his career but also possibly worse, Heremaia’s concerns were handled perfectly by Hull coach Peter Gentle.
Taking all the pressure off his player, the decision to play was left in Heremaia’s hands with Gentle insisting Hull would get by another week, two weeks or however long it took, despite already being without Danny Houghton.
Gentle sensed the apprehension, but thankfully it’s a state of mind that has now gone following his first game back.
Fearful and nervous ahead of his Warrington debut, how did he handle the initial news his career could be over?
“It was a dark time, but not for long. Maybe for just a day but then I moved on,” says Heremaia.
“It is just the way I am and the sort of person I am.
“I had a massive tragedy last year, both me and my wife, and that to me was much worse, so I looked at it from a different view point.
“For five years I’d hardly missed a game and I thought oh well I’m getting one big injury to make up for all those little ones which players normally get.
That was my approach and I always look at the positive side of things.
“This weekend’s game is for the Armed Forces and we’ve got people with missing limbs coming and that shows us all how fortunate and lucky we are. I’m definitely fortunate and very grateful to be able to still play rugby.”
Against Warrington last week Heremaia’s performance was little more than a cameo with his second spell coming at a time of Wolves dominance.
There is no question he’ll be better for the run-out and this week, while still expected to start on the bench, Hull will look for him to step up his impact.
After six months on the sidelines expectation will still be muted, but Heremaia himself is looking to make an impact.
And after a brief sample of the KC Stadium crowd, his proper home debut cannot come soon enough.
He adds: “Whenever you come to a new club you always want to impress the coaches, the players and the fans. To not be able to do that was frustrating, but I’ve got 10 games left for me to be able to do that this year.
“Hopefully by the time I get my match fitness back and I’m at full speed I’ll have my mate Danny Houghton back alongside me and the two of us can combine to cause some damage.
“Danny has been our best player consistently every week, alongside Danny Tickle, Andy Lynch and Willie Manu. I’ve definitely got big boots to fill there.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow though so much. I can’t wait to run out again at the KC. The one game I’ve played, the derby trial game, was massive.
“I’ve played in an NRL Grand Final and honestly the atmosphere was better in the derby.
“The Grand Final has a lot of neutrals and the fans are some way from the pitch, but running out at the KC and the noise, it was unreal. I’m
definitely looking forward to this game.”
And so, nerves have been replaced with excitement, concern with optimism, and after a torrid start to his Hull career nobody will deny Heremaia the home debut he deserves.