McQueen on track for Tigers trial return
Author Alicia Newton
Sat 27 Jan 2018, 11:08 PM
Wests Tigers back-rower Chris McQueen is ready to overcome nerves as he prepares to make a return to rugby league following career-saving neck surgery last season.
McQueen received the all-clear from surgeons a fortnight ago that he has made a full recovery from the disc replacement and fusion procedures he underwent in July.
After six months of rehabilitation, on the Gold Coast and in Sydney, the 30-year-old is eyeing off the chance to feature in the club’s first trial against the North Queensland Cowboys in Cairns on February 17.
“The surgeon said it couldn’t have healed up better,” McQueen said.
“I don’t get the tingles or numbness anymore, and I haven’t had a burner since so it’s been a success.”
The former Gold Coast Titans forward missed the final two months of the 2017 season in a bid to undergo surgery and ensure he was 100 per cent fit for his new club after signing a three-year deal to return to Sydney.
He will work with Wests Tigers medical staff to be eased back into man-on-man collisions ahead of the pre-season fixtures.
Understandably, the first point of contact is set to come with nerves.
“It would be unnatural if you don’t feel nervous but I think after the first one it will be full speed ahead,” McQueen said.
"It’s been a slow process but we’ve had that time up our sleeve so we’re starting to tick those boxes.
"I still haven’t properly wound up yet and tried to whack someone but have done stuff with pads at 100 per cent and plenty of ground and wrestle work.
“I certainly want to play trials and I feel like I need to before round one. Whether it’s the first, second or even both we’ll see where I’m at.”
After six seasons at the South Sydney Rabbitohs, his return to the Harbour City following a two-year stint on the Gold Coast has felt like a seamless transition.
With more than 10 new faces in the squad, the former Queensland representative said the high turnover of personnel had made it easier to gel quickly.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job fitting in,” McQueen said.
"It’s been what I expected, obviously the Tigers have done a great job recruiting so all the standards have been high in terms of a team perspective.
"I think after being in a first-grade system long enough everyone gets to know everyone in all teams.
“The rugby league community is small now, it’s not too hard to fit in to a new club.”
Part of the new culture at Concord includes plenty of off-field bonding.
The squad recently went over to coach Ivan Cleary’s house for a get-together after a gruelling pre-season.
“It’s hard to get all the boys together somewhere and be out in public so we all went over to his place, had a few beers and spent some time together,” McQueen said.
"It was the first opportunity for most of the partners to get to meet each other.
"He’s a bit different to other coaches I’ve had. He knows when to switch on and off.
“When he’s on the field he knows what needs to be said but once we step off the field he knows how to unwind and have a joke – be a normal bloke.”