Having waited eleven and a half months for his first taste of match action, Newcastle Falcons No 8 Callum Chick is eager to build on the flying start which saw him scoring just 13 minutes into his comeback game.
“I was more worried about my lungs than my knee, to be honest,” joked the Ponteland native, whose previous outing had been the pre-lockdown drubbing of Bedford back on March 13, 2020.
A seven-month pre-season later, and Chick suffered the hammer blow of multiple knee injuries on the night of an inter-squad game at Kingston Park Stadium just weeks ahead of the Gallagher Premiership kick-off.
“The injury didn’t come at a great time,” said Chick, who rounded off a superb team try during Saturday’s 25-22 home victory over Harlequins – a result which maintained his side’s placing in the top half of the table going into Friday’s all-northern clash at Sale Sharks.
“We’d had lockdown, then a really long pre-season, and it was just before an internal game that I did it.
“I did pretty much everything apart from my ACL - I did my PCL, MCL, LCL, meniscus and fractured it. Thankfully there was no surgery involved, and as frustrating as it was you just have to get on with it on those situations.”
Far from being eased back in with ten minutes off the bench, Chick was dropped in at the deep end with a starting spot against Quins, and had to go the distance following the half-time departure of one of his back row colleagues.
Chick joked: “Schwebby [Sean Robinson] threw me under the bus big time by going off injured, which meant I had to stay on for the full 80, but thankfully I just about managed it.
“I thought we played some good rugby, we were on top for a lot of the time in terms of the territory, possession and momentum, and although Quins did some good things to score their tries I was always confident we’d do it.
“Brett Connon’s a great goal-kicker who stands up well in those pressure moments, as he showed in winning a Premiership game at Wasps a while back, and as soon as the penalty was awarded I had no doubts whatsoever that he’d slot it.
“It’s also the first time in ages the boys have had some good weather to play in, and that running style suits my game, so I was happy about that, even if it was hard work.”
Relishing his light at the end of the tunnel after almost a year without a game, Chick said: “Coming back from any injury is obviously hard and you get the support you need from the club side of things, but from a squad point of view not much changes.
“The lads still take the Mick out of you, which is nice, and although you’re not involved in the squad training sessions you do still get that interaction.
“It’s never nice being stuck in the gym 24/7, but you have to use the time as wisely as you can. For me that involved putting on a bit of size and weight, thinking about how I want to develop my game, and hopefully I’ve now got the opportunity to start benefiting from that work.”
Having had to watch from afar during the early rounds of the campaign, the former England Under-20s captain who has 73 Falcons appearances to his name said: “It’s obviously a frustrating one when you just want to be out there, but the lads started the season on fire and have continued to do really well, so it’s just been a case of trying to support them as best I can and keep working hard to try and get back fit.
“I used to come and watch the Falcons as a fan when I was a kid, so to be playing for them now is great with so many other local boys also involved.”
Well aware of the difficulty of Friday night’s assignment at the fourth-placed Sale Sharks, Newcastle at least know they have it in them to beat their northern rivals, having nicked a home win with the last play in round two.
“There’s obviously the whole thing around it being the two northern teams in the Premiership, and we want to be on the top of that, but not to the extent where it changes anything we do in our preparation,” said Chick.
“It’s just another game in that respect, and rather than focusing on the geography we’re just concentrating on the strengths and weaknesses of Sale as a team.
“It’s a bit of a shorter travel, which is quite nice when most of our away games are at the other end of the country, but we know when we get there that we’re going to be facing a big, physical side.
“They’re playing well at the moment, they had a good win over Exeter last weekend but we also believe they provide opportunities for us. We’ve spoken about how we can exploit those, but they’re a very confrontational side and it’ll be a huge challenge over there.”