Venner: Premiership-quality rehabilitation saved my career

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THE ‘practised hands’ of Jersey Reds’ backroom team is what Toby Venner believes rescued his career after a 51-week injury lay-off.

The former Gloucester and Bristol scrum-half was nearly forced to bring down the curtain on his burgeoning career after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in his knee and going under the surgeon’s knife last spring.

But that did not stop Harvey Biljon taking a punt and signing the 25-year-old, who is looking to make up for lost time after his debut as a replacement in the 47-7 hammering of Hartpury last week.

‘When I joined we understood the challenge ahead and the support staff have been phenomenal the whole way through,’ said Venner.

‘An ACL is a serious knee injury, a tough one that’s taken 51 weeks owing to the way it happened and the approach we took at surgery.

‘But the support staff have been through a few of those so they’re practised hands, and it’s a real classy set-up on the Island built for rehabbing people very well, and getting them back on the pitch.

‘It’s a testament to the system at Reds that I’m back playing, and the work they’re doing is just fabulous, I was as impatient as anyone would be but the support makes it so much easier.’

It has been a difficult time for Venner, but Reds’ strength and conditioning team, as well as the culture laid out by the coaches to keep injured players involved with the playing squad as much as possible, has been pivotal through the mental and physical struggles.

‘Part of the programme for rehab at Jersey is integrating you into training a month before you’re clear to play, you get in fairly early and it gives you a good chance to understand the team, the calls and everything like that,’ he added.

‘The system they’ve got works really well, a number of the lads have been through it, it’s tried and tested, and it works. It’s been really good from my point of view, and it shows on the pitch how good other lads have returned from these injuries.’

In a twist of irony, Venner’s debut came in the same fixture, and at the same ground, as his last, for Hartpury against Jersey 363 days before. On that day, 12 months ago, he was on the losing side as Reds won the league clash 40-31.

‘My old stomping ground is Hartpury where I’ve had two stints so I’m familiar with the set-up there, and it’s gone full circle. My last game was 51 weeks ago for Hartpury against Jersey. It’s a weird old world that it’s my first game back but it’s really good to see a lot of familiar faces as well.

‘There is a real gulf in the two sides and their approaches. Reds have quite an incredible set-up in terms of Championship standards, leaps and bounds ahead of others and really pushing into Premiership standards.

‘I’ve been lucky to have a few experiences at Prem clubs Gloucester and Bristol, and I can easily say that Jersey is right up there in terms of the standards of coaching, support staff, all of it is top class. That’s clear whether you’re playing or rehabbing. But it comes after years of development and hard work, and I just feel very lucky to gain the benefits of it.

‘Fifty-one weeks since I last played so I had a fair few cobwebs, to say the least, but it’s been a long time coming so it’s good to get the debut done.

‘It felt hectic on the field. Doing it in training is tough, but it’s another thing in a game, it feels like chaos, but I’m sure it will get better the more minutes I get.

‘Apart from being rusty, I don’t feel it’s slowed me down. I feel in a really good place and that’s a nod to how it’s been dealt with in rehab, and how I’ve been integrated back into training. It’s been as professional as anyone could expect so it’s a nod to them and I feel in a good place.’

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