Dom Crosby is still coming to terms with his retirement but admits to feeling one overriding feeling – gratitude.
After two exhausting years of rehabilitation, Crosby announced earlier this month that he had made the call to hang up his boots.
A chronic knee injury that has plagued his comeback attempts forced him to make the move after numerous operations and countless setbacks.
The inability to retire on his own terms has proven to be a source of disappointment for the 29-year-old, but he has done so knowing he couldn’t do any more to rescue his career.
“To give a quick overview, I did it at Warrington in 2018,” Crosby told League Express.
“I’d just come back from having my shoulder done in the previous year. We were doing a captain’s run and as I was getting up from the floor my knee was painful.
“I went for scans and it showed minimal stuff. I then had a couple of weeks off, played through that season, went to Leeds in the middle of that year and managed my load.
“I got my ankle operated on and my knee was still pretty sore in December 2018. I saw a consultant just before Christmas. I got it operated on it but by February and March it still wasn’t right.
“I then saw a specialist in London who is world-renowned and had dealt with Premier League players.
“He told me it could be worse than we first thought, which was pretty devastating. He was straight with me, so I knew what I was getting into, a nine to 12-month process of seeing how it goes with no guarantees. So I had that in April 2019 but ever since then it’s just not got any better.
“I’ve had numerous consultations, physios and all that stuff, but I just couldn’t seem to get back. I’d get back to running, but then I couldn’t walk for a week after.
“I won’t sugar coat it, it’s been tough, getting to training at 7.00am on my own, not seeing the boys some days.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve. I worked hard to get better and when it wasn’t going my way it was a really big blow and my wife has probably seen the worst of it.
“I probably knew it was over after Christmas. I was running just before Christmas and I broke down again. I couldn’t walk properly. I knew my back was against the wall to get back fit, but I’ve always had the mindset and positive belief that if you work hard the rewards will come. Physios were telling me to call it a day, but in my mind and the culture I’d come from it didn’t sit with me to give up. So I put myself through more than I should have.
“When I did come to the decision and the knee surgeon told me to call it a day, it was a relief. All the weight was off my shoulders.”
Despite the emotional strain he’s faced, Crosby insists he regrets nothing.
“I’ve said this to numerous people, that if someone had told me ten years ago I could play one game for Wigan I’d have snatched their hand off. To go on to play for my club as a boy, play in four Grand Finals and travel the world, well I’m truly grateful for that. Having that perspective was pretty special. I’ve done all I’ve wanted to and though it didn’t end on my terms, I feel a lot of gratitude.”
Crosby has yet to decide what’s next. He plans on spending the rest of the year with his family after the sacrifices they’ve made for him. In the long-term, he’d love to return to the sport.
But he also hopes that the strains of the injury won’t affect his quality of life. Even now, exercise can take its toll.
“I went for a walk last week and I was in bits coming down. I can’t keep being in pain when I’m walking, struggling to get off the ground. I’m hoping over time it will improve and heal itself. If it doesn’t, it’s one of those things every Rugby League player will have to an extent. It’s part and parcel of the sport we sign up to.
“People don’t see that side of it, when all you’re doing is recovering and you can’t do simple things.
“The satisfaction of helping people out has helped me. If I can help people in similar situations, or lads coming up in Academies and helping them, I’d be all up for that.
“But for now I’m just going to reflect on how lucky I’ve been.”
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