Manly warhorse Anthony Watmough claims he’s never felt better at the start of the NRL season having made the difficult decision to rule himself out for last year’s Rugby League World Cup.
The NSW State of Origin star has been an almost ever-present member of Tim Sheens’ Kangaroos side since 2009 but said he had no choice but to pull out of the tournament due to chronic knee and foot problems.
“I couldn’t run during the week. I couldn’t run without a needle in the knee to get it going,” Watmough said on Tuesday.
“I couldn’t have played any more. The body had done its games for the year.”
After nursing his knee all week in the lead-up to October’s grand final defeat to the Sydney Roosters, Watmough then hurt his foot in the warm-up but opted to play through the pain barrier on one leg.
It turned out he’d ruptured a bursae – a sac filled with fluid where a tendon passes over a bone – but the problem wasn’t picked up until November.
“I didn’t have to get surgery but we had to rest the bone bruising in the knee,” he said.
“As soon as that went we felt the foot would settle down.
“But we didn’t realise there was a bursae in the middle of the bone that was just getting crushed.
“We came back in mid-November and I still couldn’t run. Then I went and had scans and there it was.
“Because I’d been walking funny for about eight weeks, I started putting stress on my foot and that nearly led to stress fractures in which was a bit scary.”
Despite all of his issues in 2013, Watmough came through Saturday’s gut-wrenching 23-22 defeat by Melbourne – a game that saw the Sea Eagles toss away a 20-0 lead at Brookvale Oval.
And he said he’s never felt as fit going into round two of a new season as he prepares for Friday’s blockbuster with South Sydney in Gosford.
“To get 80 minutes under the belt is really good,” he said.
“I’ve said to the boys this is the best I’ve felt ever.
“I’ve a few extra kilos heavier this year and getting a bit older but I seem to be carrying it alright.
“Mentally, I’m feeling really good, hopefully I’ll hold out for the rest of the year.”
Watmough admitted he found this season’s new rules difficult to adjust to, but applauded the NRL decision to ban the cannonball tackle.
“It was a strange game against Melbourne, rivalries aside both sides weren’t at their best,” he said.
“We are both at the best when we are trying to rip each other’s heads off.
“It wasn’t a real physical game and I suppose we’re just trying to get used to the new interpretations of the play-the-ball and the new speed.
“The cannonball is a horrible tackling style. You still saw a couple of them on the weekend and luckily they got penalised.
“It’s a dangerous tackle and it’s good it’s been outlawed.”