YOUNG Reds flanker Adam Korczyk says being called into the Wallabies squad has given him a much-needed confidence boost after an injury disrupted start to his professional career saw him face some mental demons.
The 22-year-old back-rower was one of a handful of uncapped players picked in Michael Cheika’s extended training squad ahead of the Rugby Championship.
His selection capped a stellar rise for Korczyk, who only a year earlier was on the arduous comeback road from a season-ending knee injury suffered on the eve of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
“I partially tore it playing for the Australian under-20s and the medical staff said I didn’t need an operation, so I was just doing rehab,” Korczyk told foxsports.com.au.
“I came back and played in the NRC for Brisbane City, played a couple of games and then the finals, then in pre-season we were doing a drill and I hyper-extended my knee and it fully went.
“It was pretty dark because it was the last week of pre-season before the season got underway, so I was very disappointed and quite emotional.”
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Standing right beside him throughout the whole process was experienced Wallaby Kane Douglas, who was also on the comeback trail after suffering an ACL injury during the Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks at Twickenham.
Together, under the watchful eye of Reds performance coach David Ballard, the duo was put through their paces.
Korczyk said Douglas made the rehabilitation process bearable and that ultimately the injury made him more aware of what it takes to succeed at the top level of the game.
“I was with Kane Douglas doing my rehab and he made rehab enjoyable,” Korczyk said.
“If it had have just been myself it would have been a much tougher experience.
“But, I guess, it was a bit of a blessing in disguise.
“Doing the rehab and then just getting my body right, because in 2015 I wasn’t the biggest guy, so I sort of developed a good mentality throughout 2016 and worked on my professionalism and by the time I arrived at 2017 it felt much easier than being thrown in the deep end when I made my debut in 2015.”
Indeed, Korczyk hardly missed a beat throughout the 2017 campaign.
The versatile back-rower, who grew up idolising All Blacks enforcer Jerry Collins, missed just two matches all season and started in nine, predominantly at blindside flanker.
He said that playing alongside and learning off Wallaby great George Smith was enormously beneficial.
“George Smith just brings a lot of experience,” Korczyk said.
“He’s not aggressive, but he’s real stern during the game and if something goes wrong, he’ll say we need to fix this up.
“But it’s been a great learning experience.
“Obviously he’s played 100-plus Super Rugby games and more than 100 Test matches, so I think it’s that experience and calmness.
“Being my first proper year, sometimes I was a bit rattled, but a guy like George Smith comes over and says ‘next play just make up for it.’
“He calms you down.
“He’s obviously a Wallabies legend and I’ve tried to learn off him as much as I can.
“He’s more of a (No) 7, but the little extra sessions at the end of trainings, he’d take us through the breakdown and pilfering stuff, which was amazing because you’re working with a legend.”
Korczyk, who can play anywhere in the back-row, faces stiff competition to make the cut when Cheika trims his squad ahead of the August 19 Bledisloe Cup opener.
Fellow blindside flankers Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey made their Test debuts in June and the former in particular impressed.
Lopeti Timani and Japan-bound Sean McMahon should also feature in Cheika’s squad.
Regardless, the Auckland-born Korczyk said just being in the mix has given him a major boost.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be in the fold for the Wallabies squad, but being here now I have a bit more belief behind me,” he said.
“They believe in me, so I need to believe in me more so I can make it in Test rugby.”