Shipperley dumps asterisk for pre-season return

Melbourne Rebels outside back Dom Shipperley woke up without an asterisk next to his name for the first time in over a year.

The return of pre-season training on Thursday not only marked the beginning of a new era for the Rebels but the official return of full team training for Shipperley after 13 months in rehabilitation after a knee injury.

While many of his young teammates reported for their first day of duty with nerves and butterflies, the experienced campaigner was full of excitement to bring some normality back to his everyday life.

“For about a year I had to be in rehab and had different training session and doing gym at a different time as the squad,” Shipperley said.

“Today, I just walked in at the same time as everyone else arrives, I did the warm-up with everyone, training with everyone and did recovery with everyone instead of being off to the side.

“It feels good to be treated like a normal player again and not have an asterisk next to your name like there’s something wrong with you.”

A frustrating run of back-to-back knee injuries was a cruel blow to the 26-year-old but Shipperley sees a silver lining to the enforced hiatus.

A knee strain against the Hurricanes sidelined Shipperley for the remaining eight games of the 2016 Super Rugby season before a return to action with the Melbourne Rising in the National Rugby Championship (NRC).

Looking back to his threatening self, Shipperley was dealt a devastating hand when he ruptured his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in the 2016 NRC semi-final against the NSW Country Eagles.

After missing the entire 2017 Super Rugby and NRC campaigns, Shipperley is full of confidence and feels like he’s stronger than ever before after the extended layoff saw he hit the gym.

“It’s been 13 months since I got injured in the NRC in October 2016 so the process has been pretty long.

“I started running in January this year but had a few hiccups along the way, the last six months have progressed well and feel like I’ve returned to an elite level of performance.

“The good thing about rehabbing for 13 months is that you do so much work you comeback stronger, I know it’s a little clichéd but in the gym I can squad more than I did pre-injury.

“I went through a long isokinetic strength which is really focused on your injured side and really strengthens it in comparison to your non-injured side.

“That’s given me a lot of confidence and the extra strength you bring out of the gym translates to a bit more confidence when you drop back into training which is when it gets chaotic.”

It was a tough first day of pre-season under new Head Coach David Wessels, who made it clear to the players this morning that the coming pre-season campaign will be hard yakka.

For Shipperley, it feels like a new club after his long-awaited return but he’s excited about what’s to come.

“I ran into a few blokes out there and it gave my body a bit of a rattle but it’s good for the confidence,” he said.

“I felt like a headless chook at some points and not really knowing what was going on but it feels good for a fresh start and feels like we’re moving forward.”

The Melbourne Rebels will kick-off its 2018 Super Rugby season at home when they host the Queensland Reds on Friday 23 February at AAMI Park, Melbourne, from 7.30pm (AEDT).

Join the Rebel Army for the 2018 Super Rugby with memberships now on sale from as little as $88 for an adult, $35 for children and $216 for a family of four for all eight home games. For more information, visit melbournerebels.com.