Ryan James considered retirement during his recovery from back-to-back knee blows but he’s now enjoyed the reward for his 693-day wait for an NRL game.
James’ momentum-changing try in Canberra’s 30-12 win over Wests Tigers was his first since August 18.
A noted try-scorer for a forward, his journey since that day has been one of significant heartache and pain.
James first went down in a match against Newcastle in April 2019, rupturing his ACL which ruled him for the rest of that season.
He then snapped the same ligament in his right knee at Gold Coast training last January, ending his season before it began.
It left the 29-year-old off contract and fearing for his future in the NRL, before being offered a two-year deal from the Raiders and coach Ricky Stuart.
“I was happy for him that he got through that match. He’s worked extremely hard all off-season,” Stuart said.
“He’s just a real professional.
“What I admired about Ryan was that him, Anna and the kids came to Canberra earlier than they needed to in regards to getting ready for the season.
“He started training with the under-20s. So you can imagine the buzz the under-20s had with a guy with his stature in the game.
“He’s very humble and he got here ready to try and prepare to play NRL.”
James got through 11 runs on Sunday against the Tigers, with his selection a surprise to many outside of the Raiders last week.
Even considering that he was once on the fringe of a State of Origin debut with NSW, he was not expected to hold out 2019 grand final player Emre Guler.
Fellow middle Corey Horsburgh can also return from a drink-driving ban next week, but is unlikely to claim a spot from James.
“I don’t know when he (James) was expecting to play NRL,” Stuart said.
“But he’s worked his way right through the pre-season into the position to start in the in the 17 this week.
“I’m just really, really happy for him that he got through what would have been a really nervous day for him. Because he’s been a player that’s had some bad luck.”