Joe Stimson arrived at Belmore full of excitement and ready to earn his spot in the famous blue and white – 2020 was going to be his year.
Given an opportunity to play in the season opener against the traditional rivals Parramatta Eels, the Temora Dragons junior was focused on playing good football – recapturing the same form that saw him play in the 2018 NRL Grand Final with Storm.
During his debut for his new club, Stimson said he felt a ‘stinger’ in his shoulder – just as COVID-19 began to pick up steam.
“It went a little bit numb. I didn’t think too much more than it was a stinger. So I kept playing and was right to go again in the second match against the Cowboys,” he told The Inner Sanctum.
“I just wanted to get through the second game. I tried to push through. The pain stayed and then got a bit worse.
“This was my year before It started. But then the injury happened in my first game. It was always going to be a tough. It hit me pretty hard and I am pretty disappointed. But it is part of rugby league – you get injured.”
This story is all too familiar for Stimson.
Stimson was informed he required shoulder surgery – but he would have to wait. The government introduced elective surgery bans.
“I was booked to have surgery on the Thursday after the game. Then the Coronavirus stopped all non-essential surgery on the Tuesday. So I had to wait a while,” he said.
“It only put me a month behind… but it was quite weird during the lockdown. It didn’t quite hit me that I would miss the whole year until we were back training.
“The injury itself is coming along really nicely. I am getting my range back quickly and hopefully I will be back to running soon. Get outside of the gym and get back out there with the boys.”
While his injury will put the breaks on his NRL career for now, he has already eclipsed a goal he set for himself before coming into first grade.
“I just wanted to play more [NRL] games than Dad,” he said
His father, Peter, played nine games in the front row for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 1997. Joe has played 53 games so far.
Despite the friendly rivalry, young Stimson said his father will be one of the greatest influences on his career.
“Dad had a huge impact on my footy. He took me to training when I was younger when he was captain-coach of a few sides. Then he coached me all through the younger grades in Temora,” he said.
“I loved the way he played. He used to just do all the little things right and now I pride myself on that as well.”