Waratah ruptures ACL, back playing in two weeks
MITCH Short ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in Durban on his first run in Waratahs colours.
Two weeks later he was the starting halfback for NSW against the Rebels in Sydney.
Officials are still scouring Short's birth certificate to see how they missed the word "Lazarus".
Short is the third-string halfback at the Waratahs whose remarkable comeback story has heads shaking in rugby circles.
The 22-year-old made his starting debut for the Tahs against the Rebels on Sunday and it was a good day.
Up against his idol Will Genia, Short scored a try, helped the Tahs get a big win and he was the fan's man-of-the-match.
But in most similar circumstances - given his injury two weeks earlier - Short would have been on the couch at home nursing a knee and cursing his luck.
Replacing an injured Nick Phipps, the Randwick halfback came off the bench in Durban for the Tahs but after just two minutes, he felt a pop in his left knee.
"I felt pain in my leg but I was only in pain for a brief period of time," Short said.
"It was my first carry and I think it was when I stepped off my left, it went. But it didn't really feel that bad."
Short played on and even scored a late try that drew the match, and though the knee was sore post-game, it didn't blow-up.
It was only when the team flew to Argentina and had scans that it was determined he'd ruptured his ACL and Short flew home.
Most ruptured ACL's require surgical repair and recovery can take up to 10 months but after consulting with specialists in Sydney, it was discovered that Short had dodged a bullet.
He'd had a "clean" rupture of his ACL, without suffering collateral damage to the knee.
"It is an isolated injury where the meniscus and nothing else in the knee was damaged when it ruptured," Short said.
"Other than soreness, it was still pretty stable. It is quite unique."
Short had fallen into a rare category of athletes who rupture an ACL but with sufficient muscle strength around the knee, can play on. Tiger Woods did the same before winning the US Open in 2008.
When NSW halfback Jake Gordon succumbed to a concussion last week, Short did a fitness test and proved he was right to play.
"I was asked if I wanted to, they didn't force me or anything. But the way I looked at it was it might be my first - or only - shot at starting for NSW. So I was obviously keen to give it a shot and see how it would be in training," Short said.
"And in the back of my mind I was quite confident. We got more specialists input and the consensus was "wow, it's rare" but if I was happy to play, there was nothing stopping me."
Short playing strongly against the Rebels given the heavily strapped knee was noteworthy but for Waratahs pathways GM Tim Rapp, the most impressive thing was Short's composure and intelligence in his run-on debut.
Short, who wno three caps for the Force last year, is currently only on a supplementary contract with the team as injury-cover. That month-long contract expires next week, and Phipps' return date will determine if/when a further deal is signed. But Rapp said Short "definitely has a future with us in some way, shape or form".
"I am pretty chilled. Obviously Nick and Jake are quality, so I know where I sit in NSW," Short said.
"It is what it is at the moment but any opportunity I get at the moment I try to do the best I can."
Short is unsure whether he'll still need surgery down the line but will take it "day by day" and keep up the strength in his leg to keep playing for as long as possible.