O’Neill en­joy­ing re­turn from in­jury

Daily Mercury - - NRL SPORT - — Jon Tuxworth

COW­BOYS cen­tre Justin O’Neill felt sick as he clutched his dis­lo­cated el­bow, fear­ing his sea­son was likely over.

Twisted awk­wardly in a tackle at Mel­bourne in round 23, the 26-year-old looked long odds of be­ing sighted again in 2017.

But thanks to his team­mates who con­tinue to defy the odds, plus a smidgen of help from the Dragons, O’Neill is back where he be­longs.

Hav­ing missed the past five weeks, O’Neill played strongly in Satur­day’s 24-16 win over Par­ra­matta, which booked the Cow­boys a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal date with the Roost­ers in Syd­ney.

“I’ve had more painful in­juries, the frac­tured back was a lot more painful than that,” he said.

“It was more a sick­en­ing in­jury, I felt pretty sick walk­ing off the field af­ter they popped it back in.”

O’Neill was al­ready start­ing to ac­cept this year had been cut short. But two weeks into the re­cov­ery process, he found a sliver of hope.

“My ini­tial thoughts af­ter the swelling came down was it looked pretty bad, I prob­a­bly thought my sea­son was over,” O’Neill said. “But two weeks in, it felt re­ally good and the strength was there, I was sur­prised by the func­tion I was get­ting.”

In­juries have forced the Cow­boys to use 32 play­ers this sea­son, but the fringe play­ers have man­aged to step up and keep the side in the fight.

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