Injury causes Ferling to miss crucial clash
IT WAS not the news Lane Ferling wanted to hear when he spoke to his surgeon on Friday after injuring a finger at Cronulla Sharks training.
"I saw the surgeon - basically there's a plate that goes over each joint in your finger - and he described it as my knee cap going down to my shin,” Ferling said.
The diagnosis forced Ferling to miss the Sharks' final trial game - a comprehensive win over the Wests Tigers - and following successful finger reconstruction surgery yesterday a six week turnaround is the best case scenario.
The former Red Ant junior moved from Norths Devils to the Sharks' NYC side following a dominant season in the FOGs Colts competition that culminated in Player of the Year honours, and by all accounts was pushing for round one selection before this most recent setback.
"It set in on me when I was talking to my coach, seeing how disappointed he was,” Ferling said.
"It proved to me I had a big chance at making the side for round one, but it's just one of those things, every player gets them.
"It'll be how I come back from it now.”
In Ferling's favour is the timing of the injury, with the five-eighth already eyeing a round five return.
"It's probably one of the best injuries I can have, I can still lift, still run, still do (almost) everything,” Ferling said.
"I've got six weeks to focus on speed, strength and get back to playing fitness ready for round five.
"I'll start a rehab program and go through it one-on-one with my physio and strength and conditioning coach; they have a great set-up for getting players back on the field.”
Missing Saturday's trial meant conceding ground to his fellow halves also pushing for a starting berth, but Ferling said the competition for spots was healthy.
"It's such a weird concept because your best mates in the team happen to be the guys you're competing for spots against,” he said.
"The boys in every position are really tight, but you know in the back of your mind you have to beat them for that starting spot.
"It's a constant grind, the competition for spots is unreal and we've got a healthy squad, there's maybe only three or four boys in rehab, so everyone is fit and ready to compete.”
On-field the NYC is a step above the FOGs Colts level Ferling experienced at the Devils, and surrounded by the best young talent in the country he is relishing the chance to work on the nuances of his game.
"Now that I've come down here I've been able to work on parts of my game I thought I'd never think about working on,” Ferling said.
"We have such a structure in our gameplans and everyone knows what we have to do in the set to achieve the end result, it makes things less complicated because you're not telling people how to do their job you just focus on doing yours right.”
Whereas at the Devils Lane would pinch-hit in other positions where required, the talent at the Sharks makes it easier to focus on his job at five-eighth.
"Skill wise you have to specialise in your own position because every person in the team knows their role, you've got front rowers talking to me as a half back about how we'll target specific players and find a weakness in their defence,” Ferling said.
"I'm astounded at the talk - the middles talk to our halves, who talk to our hookers and so on to our outside backs - everyone is so knowledgeable.
"If something goes wrong on the track you don't have the coach coming at you, you have 13 other guys asking questions.
"Now all I have to do is wait, and when I see something happen I pull the trigger. It's something I feel I've really excelled at in these past couple months.”
After signing with the Sharks late last year, Ferling said while an NRL career is something he would "love to achieve” his goal was simply to compete to the best of his ability.
Three months in to training, he has seen the commitment required to compete at the highest level and taken it in his stride.
"The biggest thing is the workload, we're training five days a week,” Ferling said.
"We're up there with first grade, doing the same training sessions, spending two hours on the field and two in the gym.
"GPS data is up there if not better than the NRL squad - that workload and intensity at trainings is totally different (to the FOGs Colts).”
Expectations are high for a Sharks squad that made the semi-finals last season and which feeds into the reigning NRL premiers, but internally the players are standing by the 'one week at a time' cliché.
"We're not setting a high goal, we just want to do as well as we can,” Ferling said.
"We've set week by week goals since our first training into the New Year, and right now we're just focusing on the Broncos in round one.
"When it comes to training that switch is flicked and it's flat out, the coaching staff said they've never seen anything like this before.
"It gets you excited to see what round one is going to be like if that's what it's like at training.”
Juggling training as a professional with part-time work and external university studies sounds like a lot for one person, but Ferling would not have it any other way.
"I'm really happy, I like to be busy and I like to have structure in my life,” Ferling said.
"I've been able to do a cross-institutional study at the University of Wooloongong and tick off a subject or two in the first semester. I didn't want to have a break because I knew it would be hard to come back.
"I get two days off a week and I get to go fishing. I'm living the life.”