The Tigers’ versatile back is thrilled to be able to play again after seeing first-hand how cruel the game can be to others, writes Glenn Jackson.
Whenever Tim Moltzen was feeling like the world was against him, he consoled himself with the knowledge that he wasn’t even the unluckiest bloke on his lounge.
As Moltzen, the Wests Tigers playmaker, fought to return from a knee reconstruction last season, he shared an apartment not only with teammate Benji Marshall, but also winger Taniela Tuiaki, who was forced into retirement earlier this year when a horrible leg injury dating from 2009 finally got the better of him.
‘‘If I ever had a down day, and there’d be a few of them, I’d look at him [Tuiaki] and … I had a time frame of six months, but for him, he didn’t know if he was ever going to come back,’’ Moltzen said. ‘‘That was something that made me realise that I was lucky in a way. It was a serious injury, yeah, but it was something that I could come back from.’’
Moltzen is four rounds into his comeback. The fifth round, this Friday night against South Sydney at the Sydney Football Stadium, will represent one year since his left knee buckled underneath him, against North Queensland in Townsville.
‘‘It’s good to be on the other side of it,’’ he said. ''Playing some footy has helped put it to the back of my head, I suppose. It was definitely a long year last year, and pretty disappointing for me … I just felt like I didn’t do too much last year. I played five games, but it felt like I played none.
'‘I’d come off a good year in ‘09. I felt like I was a part of the team, and to a point pretty important to the team, with the role that I was playing. I was enjoying my footy, and I was pretty focused on having a big year. I just had that little bit of confidence about me. I suppose it all got shot down.’’
At a time when the Tigers are facing an injury crisis, it is timely to hear from a player who has popped his head out the other side of one. ‘’[It] mucked me up in the head a fair bit,‘’ he said. To the point where he felt bad when the team lost, and even worse when they won. ‘‘It was lonely,’’ Moltzen said. ‘‘Not that there was no body around, and not that I didn’t have support there … it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get through the mental side of things. The fact that I knew I wasn’t going to come back [last year] was a real kick in the guts.’’
He pushed it, mind you, attempting to make a surprise return in the Tigers’ finals push last season. His early timidness in the trials this year, though, showed him exactly why ‘‘in reality [a return in the finals] was never going to happen’’.
While last Sunday’s defeat at the hands of the Roosters represented one step back for the Tigers, Moltzen will simply be grateful that at least he is stepping at all. He conceded he was still feeling his way, but in an 80-minute performance against the Roosters - his first since the same stage of the competition last year - he is growing more confident.
‘‘It’s about making my tackles and getting tackled,’’ Moltzen said. ‘‘In those first few games, it was definitely in the head, running and getting tackled, but now I’m slipping back into the old ways, getting tackled and not worried about getting up and, you know, my leg’s fallen off. I’m starting to get a bit of confidence. I’ve just got to figure out where I’m going to play.’’
With halfback Robert Lui out with an ankle injury, Moltzen will need that confidence, having had to step into the halfback role. He is comfortable in that position or at fullback. He is a little less comfortable with a bench role. Sitting down, feeling sorry for himself, was so last year.