When you’ve broken the same arm twice in eight months and are the only rider in a one-horse race for the Unluckiest Player in Christendom gong at the end of season awards, surely waiting one more week for your return is bearable.
Not for Craig Voisey. Just when he thought rugby’s gods had finished having their mischievous way with him, the Moseley prop peered through the bars of his injury-imposed cage last weekend to see a snow-shrouded Billesley Common and one last sting in fate’s tail.
Leeds would not be coming to Birmingham and Voisey’s four-month absence, he was due to start on the bench, would be extended by another seven days.
“That just about summed up my season,” the 27-year-old grumbled as he turned his attention to yet another gym session.
The front rower’s catalogue of mishap began on March 9 last year when he suffered a first break ten minutes into the play-off game with Plymouth Albion. So important was he to the Red and Black cause at that stage, it was an injury that threatened to undermine Moseley’s Championship status.
Mercifully they hung on as Colin Quigley stepped into the breach and after a few weeks Voisey was back playing for the North Midlands and doing well enough to earn a second consecutive England Counties call up for the tour to East Africa. That must have gone down with some at Billesley Common like a Test match scrum.
Nevertheless he was back for the start of the current campaign and was arguably even more critical to the Mose squad as the only senior prop in a cordon of youngsters that no matter how promising were, to a boy, untested in the second tier.
Then, 11 games into his campaign, disaster struck, this time at London Scottish where the Exiled Quigley and Mark Irish were having their wicked way with the visitors’ set-piece. Snap.
“I just could not believe it had happened again.
“I felt ridiculously unlucky but there was nothing I could do about it,” he laments.
He has not played since, though he hopes to change that this Saturday when – you’ve guessed it – London Scottish come to town.
If Kevin Maggs could have picked a player to protect from injury it would have been his tighthead, instead the embattled head coach, as he was then, could virtually count Voisey’s year-long contribution on his fingers.
“There was a collection of things, coming back too soon from the first break did not help the situation,” Voisey admitted.
“The type of strapping and padding I wore wasn’t right. Instead of dispersing the impact of every hit I took, it focused it on the area.
“I thought the pad only needed to go over the length of the plate when I actually needed a full arm pad.
“Initially I had two weeks to let the arm settle down, I was in plaster but then when the plaster came off, mobility was they key. Because the plate was quite high up I needed to get that rotation back in my arm.”
Since then he has been throwing himself around in training with reckless abandon, determined to prove to Maggs he is ready to resume where he left off in November.
However, having also broken his arm during his playing days at Bath, Maggs has been ultra-cautious and given Moseley’s apparent safety from relegation – not guaranteed but likely – he could be forgiven for thinking it might be best for Voisey to spend the next five months in a gym in order to be ready next season.
As most players do, though, Voisey just wants to play. “I felt I could have played two or three weeks ago, I am mad keen to get back,” he says.
“He [Maggs] has been frustrating but in a good way, the first time I was back after eight weeks but he was like ‘There is no way I am taking any risks’. He wants me for the future. He wants to get it right and for me to be around the whole year. As frustrating as that is for a player I cannot fault the process. I have never doubted that he has had my best interests at heart.”
Which has turned the Moseley office into a scene where hints are about as subtle as looseheads and while one tells anyone who’ll listen he’s ready to go, the other – mindful of his own experience – urges discretion.
There is no doubt in Voisey’s mind, though, he is ready. “Everyone has said I was just unlucky but with this type of break it is very subjective when you can come back. Everyone has their own opinion on it and it’s hard to know when to take the plunge.
“One doctor would have signed me off six or seven weeks ago, another only two weeks ago.
“I have rehabbed it properly, I have done everything I have had to do, I have not pushed it at all. I have given it the right length of time and the X-rays have shown that it has healed well.”
He has also sought expert advice from technicians at Worcester who have provided him with an arm guard that will protect both breaks. Short of trying to sneak chain mail and a mediaeval vambrace on to the pitch, there is little else he can do.
“I wanted to make sure I was back down to a normal risk. Now I am no more likely to break my arm than any other player.”
Of which there are now plenty. The propping scene has changed considerably since late last year when Voisey was first struck down and Moseley were forced to travel to Gala with Moseley Oak’s Lewis Woodfield in their side.
Stefan Thorp, Ethan Waller and Tom Warren are all competing for the No.1 shirt while former Wales international Ben Evans and the hugely promising Danny Herriott do battle for the tighthead berth. Voisey might have to wait even longer for his comeback.
“I am under no illusions that I am going to come back and walk straight in. I would be quite happy sitting on the bench for the rest of the season and hitting the ground running next season.
“The guys who have come in have done a fantastic job, I would never expect just to be handed a shirt. Ben Evans has done brilliantly since he came. I just want to push him and we’ll see what happens.”
Which hopefully won’t be another unlucky break.