‘It made me who I am today’: Salford Red Devils’ Matty Foster on his double injury hell

AT the age of 22, Matty Foster has been through more setbacks than many players will in full careers.

The new Salford forward played just one game for his hometown club St Helens – four years ago – after the horror of successive anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injuries.

His first came while on loan at Leigh in 2021, at Magic Weekend, and sidelined him for eleven months.

Then in his first game back, for Saints’ Reserves, he suffered a recurrence of the injury, necessitating another ten months in rehab.

“I was on a staged return, playing for the Reserves, just getting some minutes in before coming back,” Foster told League Express.

“I was coming off at half-time because that’s how long they wanted me to play. It was the last tackle before half-time, I got tackled behind my knee and fell the wrong way. 

“I knew then when it clicked, it felt the same as the first time. It put me back to square one and I had to go again.

“I look back at it now and I think should I have just not taken that carry? But if you’re playing rugby like that, there’s no point playing. It wasn’t the nicest experience, but I’m here still.”

The biggest challenge was a mental one, on both occasions.

“The mental side with the second one wasn’t the fact of the unknown, because I’d already done all the rehab,” said Foster.

“I knew how long it would take and what to do and not to do. It was more that all that hard work I’d put in had just been taken away again. 

“I wouldn’t say the second time was easier, I just knew what was coming. I knew what I had to do. The first time was a lot of panic. You hear ‘ACL’ and know how much people struggle with it.

“One is enough to put you through the wringer. It was a tough time, mentally more than anything. A lot of uncertainty and being in the unknown. 

“It can be a lonely place, and if it wasn’t for the team I had around me at Saints it could have been a different story.

“It was a tough time but I don’t think I’d change it, because it made me who I am today. I wouldn’t like to do it again, but I wouldn’t change it.”

With competition fierce for a place in St Helens’ first team, Foster made the decision to join Salford ahead of this season.

His first game for the club proved a poignant one as he scored a try against Saints in a pre-season clash.

Afterwards, his former coach Paul Wellens said: “We’ve all seen how hard he has worked and how much it means to him.

“For him to show the resilience that he’s shown over the last few years and now see him back out on the field playing must be really pleasing for Salford but it’s equally as pleasing for everybody here at St Helens as well.”

Now Foster is looking to make his competitive debut for the Red Devils, having narrowly missed out on selection for their opening four games.

He says he is enjoying the different atmosphere of being in a smaller squad.

“Everyone has to be able to do a job. It’s not as if there’s 30-odd lads to pick from,” added Foster, comparing new club to old.

“You can kind of get lost in the noise of it all when there’s that many different bodies, that many different personalities. 

“Because we have a small squad, everyone knows and gets on with each other and does stuff away from rugby with each other. 

“It’s a bit more personal with a smaller squad. I quite like it. It gives you that sense of brotherhood, and you’re willing to do anything for your brothers, aren’t you?”