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How young Blues midfielder overcame three ACL knee injuries

By Adam Julian
Corey Evans of the Blues runs away for a try during the round seven Super Rugby Pacific match between Blues and Western Force at Eden Park, on April 05, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Corey Evans has blown his ACL three times, damaging both knees. The joy derived from mates playing rugby was part of his stubborn refusal not to quit.

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“It’s unfortunate, bro. It’s a part of sport. There are lots of people to thank for helping me stay positive; the biggest ones being my family and the physios,” Evans told RugbyPass.

“I’d get itchy feet watching my mates on the sidelines. I just had to be part of it.”

Evans is among a growing contingent of Blues players, not yet household names, delivering strong performances in Super Rugby Pacific as the team builds greater substance.

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The Blues have always had plenty of ‘star power’ but in 2024 it’s performances from the likes of Laghlan McWhannell, Josh Beehre, Cole Forbes, AJ Lam, and Evans that suggest the Blues have a greater resilience.

Evans has played in two victories against Moana Pasifika (47-8) and the Force (50-3). At the halfway stage of the season, the Blues are in second place with six wins and just a solitary defeat to leaders the Hurricanes in Round 3.

“Second is a good reflection of the work that’s gone in and the game plan we’ve developed built around showcasing our strengths,” Evans said.

“My game is about taking the ball to the line, being a playmaker, distrusting when I need to or seeing miss-matches in front of me.

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“I want to be a triple threat: run, kick, and pass. Doing all those things consistently will take my game to the next level.”

Waipapakauri is a small settlement in the Far North District of New Zealand. It is located on State Highway 1 at the isthmus of the Aupouri Peninsula. The larger settlement of Awanui lies to the southeast. Waipapakauri is some 12 km to the north of Kaitaia, the nearest town.

It was in Waipapakauri where Evans’ professional rugby dreams started. His ambitions gained momentum when he attended Auckland Grammar School.  He spent three years in the First XV. His second season was ruined by his first ACL injury. In 2018 he captained Grammar and made the New Zealand Secondary Schools.

“I went to Grammar to get a prosperous career. I didn’t quite get there,” Evans laughed.

“My study results were somewhat short of excellence.”

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“Bro that place brought out the best in me. Everyone is competing because everyone wants to be in the top class or the top sports team. It’s not like that in Pukenui.

“My brothers Daniel and Lincoln are at Grammar. That’s huge for them. My parents Donna and Eddie are everything to me. They’ve got this Uber thing going now which means they come to all my games, and I see a lot of them which is important.”

Evans played for the New Zealand Schools in their 24-12 victory over Australia in 2018. Angus Bell, Carter Gordon, Tamiati Williams, and Josh Lord are the most prominent internationals to have emerged from that contest.

Evans was a New Zealand Under 20 selection out of the Grammar Tech club. In 2021 he debuted for Auckland in a memorable 35-24 win against Canterbury at Eden Park. Harry Plummer scored 20 points, and AJ Lam three tries.

Auckland were NPC semi-finalists in 2022 with Evans making a dozen appearances and earning a Super Rugby contact. He played 43 minutes for the Blues in an injury-ravaged season.

Auckland was frustratingly inconsistent in 2023 exiting to Canterbury in the quarter finals. Evans elevated his game to another level under the mentorship of All Black Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and All Blacks Sevens veteran Bryce Heem (22 tournaments). He played nine games and scored tries in victories over Bay of Plenty (32-30), Hawke’s Bay (41-22) and Canterbury (36-29).

“After NPC, I decided to stay away from all the other things you can do on a Saturday night, Evans said.

“A group of boys have been locked in from October to now getting fitter and stronger; making sure everything is consistent on the training field. Our results have been good, we want them to be better.”

 

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