Simon Kennewell has spent nearly a year in rehab but the Aussie Sevens rising star is set to push his claims for a World Series return this weekend.
Kennewell ruptured his ACL just two days out from last year’s Sydney 7s and has played just a handful of minutes since, in the Queensland Premier Rugby Sevens.
He travelled with the team to Cape Town as the squad’s 14th man but didn’t play.
This weekend’s Coral Coast will be his first full tournament since injuring his knee and undergoing shoulder surgery and his first major step towards pushing for selection in Hamilton and a Sydney.
Kennewell said watching on as his teammates won the Sydney title in 2018 was a “bittersweet” way to begin a long recovery.
“To do that so close (to the tournament) and particularly after the boys won that Sydney 7s tournament, to do it so close to that was rubbing salt into the wound, it was bittersweet,” he said.
“But at the same time it was good to be around the group, they all supported me a lot along the way.”
Physically, Kennewell is at full fitness and the young gun said he had full faith that he could return to the form he showed before his injury.
“The mental side of it is the biggest thing, anyone would know that coming back from a serious injury, but if you do all the work off the field the doubt isn’t there,” he said.
“At the moment I have no doubt at all. I’ve done all that work behind the scenes and out on the field I have feel as comfortable as before or even better.”
Kennewell’s off-field contributions have been valuable for the side as well, coach Tim Walsh said.
“He’s learned an incredible amount about himself and injuries and about being a professional athlete within that time and he is champing at the bit to get back on,” he said.
“I almost have to protect him from himself he’s that keen and bulletproof but I think the sooner we get him on the field and feeling comfortable he’ll be able to relax and play the rugby that he was playing before he got injured but then amplify that to a whole new level.”
Rather than being dragged down by his poor fortune, Walsh said Kennewell was actually the man tasked with keeping the side energised throughout the season despite his injury.
“He’s in our executive group in the team and he’s constantly positive, he’s full of energy and his role within the team is to monitor that (energy) and come up with different ways to make sure that everyone’s bouncing off the walls with him at the right time,” he said.
“To have that role whilst being injured is pretty impressive but it’s part of his personality and I think it’s a real show of character, how he’s come through it.”
Kennewell and the rest of the Coral Coast Sevens team will leave for Fiji on Wednesday.
Australian development team
1. Charlie Tupu Folasa
2. Simon Kennewell
3. Will Terry
4. James Turner
5. Joe Pincus
6. Jeral Skelton
7. Dimitry Chipizubov
8. Sam Myers
9. Josh Coward
10. Brandon Quinn
11. Hayden Sargeant
12. Matt Hood