Former Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell has opened up about the mental battles that took years to overcome following a horrific ankle injury during a Super Rugby match against his old team the Queensland Reds in 2011.
“In my own opinion, I was in the form of my career and then for that to happen on the eve of the World Cup,” Mitchell said on RugbyPass Legends.
Mitchell began an innocuous kick chase as the Waratahs hoisted a box kick, on the way to the contest he collided with loose forward Scott Higginbotham shoulder-to-shoulder and fell to the ground awkwardly, twisting his ankle and breaking his leg in multiple places.
“I remember looking down and my foot was facing the other way. That’s what rattled me the most.
“I also remember they relocated the ankle on the field, there was a lady that came over with a green whistle and she was trying to put the vial, it’s like the morphine, in the whistle, and she was spilling it everywhere and I was like ‘f***ing give me that! I need it’.”
“I soon as I sucked on that, the pain was fine.
As Mitchell departed from the field on a medical cart, he remembers vividly coping abuse from the Brisbane crowd.
“I remember going up the tunnel, and of course I’m a former Queensland Reds player that left, and I just hear this ‘suck s*** Mitchell, you c***’. I don’t know why, but that one moment really stuck out.”
With his World Cup less than six months away, Wallaby coach Robbie Deans paid him a visit that night after the game where Mitchell pleaded with him to still pick him.
“Robbie came into the hospital that night, and I told him I would be fine for the World Cup, don’t give up on me even though my foot is in how many pieces.
Drew Mitchell made it to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, as Deans backed his winger despite not have regular game time under his belt on return.
“I was lucky that Robbie backed me, and picked me for the World Cup even though I was underdone.”
The mental scars of the gruesome injury stayed with him long after he had returned the field, as he battled visions of every player he watched on TV dislocating his ankle and even a fan as he prepared to play a game in Wales.
“You always get over your physical, you can do your rehab, you can do your strengthening and all the rest of it but I had a lot of trouble mentally getting over that.”
“I’d watch any sort of contact sport, and every tackle I thought that someone was going to dislocate their ankle. It obviously had an effect on me mentally. I started to see a psychologist about it, just to be ok about it. It would take myself to a place that would make me feel uncomfortable about it in order to become okay about it.
“I still remember when I came back later, even 12-months after I returned, I was on the bus on the way to a game at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, and the bus goes quite slowly because you are behind a police escort on horseback.
“The street there just before Millennium, there are hundreds, thousands of people banging the bus and all the rest of it. At one point there was this Australian guy jumping up and banging on the bus window and I just pictured him falling down and dislocating his ankle.
“So even though I was back playing for a long time, I just hadn’t addressed that fear of me doing it again.”
Watch the full episode of RugbyPass Legends with Drew Mitchell below.
RugbyPass Legends – Drew Mitchell Part II:
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