Stephen Hoiles returns from rugby's wilderness
January 7, 2014
Stephen Hoiles has not played Super Rugby since 2010 © Getty Images
Stephen Hoiles has endured quite the journey trying to revive his Super Rugby career, the 32-year-old back-rower venturing to Sweden and back hoping last-ditch surgery on his troublesome Achilles tendon could get him back on the paddock for the first time since 2010.
"My father and I flew over," Hoiles said. "We had about 11 flights in 11 days. It was like a massive trek to get there and then I was back out of there about five days later."
But the gamble paid off, with Hoiles making two appearances for Randwick in Sydney's Shute Shield club premiership competition last August to earn a training contract with New South Wales Waratahs.
Painstaking research, doctors and former coaches pointed him to Dr Hakan Alfredson, whom Hoiles hailed as "if not the best, then one of the best tendon surgeons in the world".
"He just deals with chronic cases or people who are a little bit left of centre."
Hoiles was definitely that, if not at his wits' end after being frustrated by an injury that started as a "stiff foot" from double training loads with the Brumbies and the Wallabies midway through 2010. He was scheduled to spend 12 weeks on the sidelines after clean-up surgery at the end of that season, but he's been in the wilderness since. Apart from the emotional toll taken on Hoiles, who couldn't even chase his two young children on the beach without pulling up sore, the former Brumbies captain has also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings.
"I had to leave Canberra because of it, because I had another year left on my contract and Jake White wasn't really happy coming into the side with the captain potentially not going to play for the whole year," he said.
Hoiles emailed Dr Alfredson in January 2013, after two unsuccessful six-month rehabilitation programs at the Australian Institute of Sport, and he was on a flight two weeks later for surgery.
"I was either going to go over there and he'd tell me that it's unrepairable and that I'm done, or he'd be able to fix it," Hoiles said. "So either way, it was going to be closure. If it was no good, I could accept that. I'd have given it every shot."
Dr Alfredson asked Hoiles to run on the spot to aggravate the injury before taking an ultrasound image that identified a loose bone fragment in the injured foot.
"Then he split me down the back of my heel, opened me up and cleaned it up while I was awake," Hoiles said. "It was probably a two-hour operation but, after pretty much two-and-a-half, three, years of utter frustration because of it, it's all sorted now."
Hoiles has completed 10 weeks of intense off-season training with the Waratahs without once needing Achilles treatment. His only focus now is on the Waratahs' February 1 trial against Melbourne Rebels in Albury.
"There's been no guarantees, no promises," he said. "I don't know where it's going to lead me footy-wise. I've got to work pretty hard to try and get an opportunity to play here because there's a lot of guys in front of me. But I still believe that the years I missed may be a bit of a blessing for me. I still feel like I've got a couple of good years in me at least."
Communication error please reload the page.
Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha was left with a horrific cut following an on-pitch collision with team-mate Steven Caulker
Valtteri Bottas says he is ready to win races this year after learning from his first season fighting at the front in 2014
Italy have confirmed they will bid to host Rugby World Cup in 2023, becoming the first nation to cement their opposition to Ireland
Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has denied intentionally spitting at Newcastle forward Papiss Cisse, saying he is "totally surprised" by the reaction to the incident on Wednesday
Luis Suarez is to return to Anfield to play in a charity match arranged by Liverpool
Wayne Rooney loves a goal against Arsenal, and you can get him at 25/1 with Bet365 to score in a 1-0 for Manchester United on Monday
After Nemanja Matic twisted his ankle celebrating Chelsea's League Cup win, ESPN runs down some of the game's most ludicrous injuries
How appetising do 160g of protein, 100g of carbs and 60g of fats sound? Paul Butler takes Inside Boxing through his scientifically-managed eating habits
Andre Agassi said this week that Andy Murray plays at his best when he's under pressure - and he will no doubt thrive on what will be an emotional Scotland homecoming when Great Britain take on the United States in the Davis Cup
Is there still a rugby league county championship?
Amir Khan is unlikely to face Kell Brook this summer as he looks to negotiate a fight with Miguel Cotto in America
Louis van Gaal wants his Manchester United players to cut out the backpasses to David De Gea as frustrations mount among supporters over his side's unadventurous approach this season
Brendan Rodgers admits Liverpool's defeat at Crystal Palace in November left him fearing for his job at Anfield
Andre Ward has warned Carl Froch that he will be calling all of the shots over their proposed title unification bout
Emre Can sees his long-term future at Liverpool as a midfielder, but insists he will never be the new Steven Gerrard
Eight years ago, Steve Bunce was offered the chance of buying a 'share' in Tyson Fury, and it would have been a shrewd investment if he had the money
He may try and play down his obsession with his appearance, but Cristiano Ronaldo has apparently been sending a personal stylist to regularly brush up his waxwork model
Who was the 100th man to win a world championship Grand Prix?
Paul Butler tells Inside Boxing he turned down the chance of a trial with Liverpool in order to focus on boxing - and it was the right choice
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner