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5 days ago
Sidelined skipper Monty Betham could be poised to make a stunning return to the Warriors in time for next month's NRL playoffs.
His season was thought to be in tatters in April after he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. But Betham is training again and hasn't ruled out being part of the club's push towards the NRL premiership.
It would be a remarkable recovery from an injury that drove Betham to such despair he couldn't face travelling to away games because it was just too painful being reduced to a spectator.
The hooker and his medical team will be forced to make a final call in the next four weeks, but Betham is optimistic.
"We've got a set of steps in place and so far so good. I've been meeting all my goals and all the demands expected from me," he said. "I'm very happy with the progress I'm making.
"It would be very nice to get out there in the Warriors colours this year, I haven't ruled it out yet."
If Lady Luck has any sense of fair play, Betham's medical clearance sheet will be duly rubber-stamped.
Betham, one of the Warriors' best in 2001, cruelly missed the club making history after breaking a leg the week before its maiden playoffs appearance last year.
Just weeks after the high of being awarded the club's captaincy, his 2002 season shuddered to a halt when falling awkwardly in a tackle in the round three clash against Newcastle.
What should have been a season that was headed for the Betham scrapbook was instead being diverted to the scrap heap.
The ensuing four months on the sidelines have seen Betham who has struggle with the inner-turmoil of watching from the grandstands.
His delight in the team moving into the top four on the back of a record eight straight wins was in part soured by his desire to be part of it all. And only now, says Betham, with his boots laced and back in training, does he feel like a league player again.
"I've been very proud of the boys this year and through that they've inspired me to do more hard work and to try and return this year.
"But at the same time it's a struggle. At the start of the year I was going away with the team but now I just would rather stay back and not travel with the side because it's too hard seeing them prepare for games and not being able to play. I prefer watching those overseas games on TV."
Despite the heartache, the fact Betham can still draw positives from his own misfortune is a reflection on the sort of qualities that saw him handed the mantle of skipper at just 23 years of age.
"Looking back at it, if I hadn't got injured we wouldn't have seen PJ (Marsh) play in his best role which is at hooker, we wouldn't have seen Lance Hohaia come through, and also Brent Webb. So it's been good for the club but not so good for me."
Should Betham miss the boat for the Warriors there is still the lure of adding to the two Kiwi test caps he earned last year against France and Australia.
Although emphatic he will be fully fit and available for the end of year tour to Great Britain and France, the former Junior Kiwis skipper realises it will be a big ask for coach Gary Freeman to select him.
But Betham says he is banking on having done enough in the Kiwi camp last year to force Freeman's hand into resurrecting his season with a test jumper.