By Nathan Beuman
Some people say that modern day footballers have gone soft.
Try telling that to Illawarra Cutters winger Geoff Daniela, who played almost the entire second half of last year’s NSW Cup Grand Final with his left lateral ligament and hamstring completely torn off the bone.
“I tore them off the bone just after half time of the Grand Final,” said Daniela.
“I thought it was just a cork so played on and finished the game. Then it got swollen a bit (so) I went for a scan two days later and found out I had no hamstring. I had to get (it) operated on as soon as I could.”
The road to recovery has been a long and painful one for Daniela, with the injury forcing him to miss out on representing the Cook Islands at last year’s Rugby League World Cup in Great Britain.
“At the start of the year, I put down one of my goals (was) to go to the World Cup, especially for such a small country like the Cook Islands,” said Daniela.
“We have only 20,000 people in our country, and to go to something so big, I was very depressed for the first week.”
Daniela made his long awaited debut for the Cutters in round three, scoring a double in his side’s 34-22 victory over the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, shocking doctors and club officials, who weren’t expecting him to return until late May at the earliest.
“I didn’t give up over the off-season,” said Daniela.
“Obviously I didn’t have a club to go to. I didn’t come down here until the end of January, so I kept training by myself. I would train six days a week by myself.”
Despite being an experienced first grader with 45 games with the Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers under his belt, the Auckland born 27-year-old admits that he is still growing as a footballer, saying he has learnt a lot from Cutters Head Coach Ian Millward.
“I’ve learnt a lot off Ian. I’ve been around and I’ve had some coaches in my time,” said Daniela.
“I’ve picked up little pieces I think can be good for my game. Ian is certainly adding to that as well, and I look forward to learning more and more from him as the year goes on.”
Having won six of their last seven games, Daniela is very happy with the way his side is placed after ten rounds, saying he believes the Cutters can achieve great things in 2014.
“Coming into the season, I didn’t know what to think, (however) over the last few weeks, we have started to come together really nicely,” said Daniela.
“We have a really great group of core Cutters boys, and obviously the boys who come down (from the Dragons) and play with us have been playing really well.”
In an effort to be closer to the Cutters base at the University of Wollongong, Geoff moved down to the Illawarra over the offseason, picking up work with a local company called Dynamic Facilities Maintenance, which involves maintaining the facilities of nursing homes and RSLs.
Geoff and the rest of the Illawarra Cutters will be out to extend their unbeaten streak on Saturday to four games, when they take on the table topping Wentworthville Magpies at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta.