Fighter Mike Poole back for Dragons
FORMER cage fighter Mike Poole returns to action for Newport Gwent Dragons tomorrow after battling his way back for a third time from serious injury.
He’s a man enjoying more comebacks than Frank Sinatra and the cruel hands dealt to the winger would have ended most careers.
But following three major knee operations, Poole has demonstrated he’s made of stern stuff.
His gritty determination, the wonders of modern science and the Dragons’ faith have all played vital parts in his remarkable renaissance.
This time round, the highly regarded 26-year-old has had a dead person’s tendon from a hamstring grafted into his right knee, part of a torturous road to recovery following surgery and rehabilitation.
Poole starts on the wing against a Gwent Select XV at Rodney Parade this weekend, his first game since he was injured making a tackle in the Dragons’ defeat away to Treviso last October.
The 6ft 2in and 14st 7lb Poole cut his teeth with Newport, becoming a firm favourite with the Black and Ambers faithful and was the Premiership’s top try scorer in 2008/09 with 19 touchdowns.
But his playing days have been blighted by injury with his first anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) operation coming when he was 19 after damaging his left knee.
Poole’s unlucky streak continued when he badly injured his right knee playing for the Crawshays on tour in Hong Kong in 2010.
After overcoming that setback, his potential saw him rewarded with a short-term Dragons contract last year but he made just seven appearances for the region before lightening struck again in Italy.
He underwent surgery at Newport’s St Woolos Hospital in December before months of gruelling rehabilitation.
“I had a donor graft from a dead person and it would have been nice to find out who it was from so that I could send a letter to the family but they don’t disclose that information,” Poole said. “I’m very grateful to them and I also owe surgeon Mark Lewis a lot.
“A few years ago I would have been crocked. I wouldn’t have been able to play again.”
Poole puts his refusal to surrender down to his “obsessive compulsive nature” which helped him become such a success in the brutal world of cage fighting.
He said: “Out in Treviso when it happened again, I was absolutely devastated.
“I’ve had stinking luck with injuries but I feel good now, I feel strong.
“It’s like the saying, ‘It’s not how you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up again’.
“I don’t think many people could have come back from three serious injuries, but I think I did it because of my nature and how I look at things.
“The first 12 weeks after surgery were savage. You can’t do anything because you’ve got to be patient and wait for your body to take on the graft.”
Poole has also acknowledged the debt he owes the Dragons for sticking by him.
“I massively thankful to them for giving another chance – I can’t speak highly enough of everybody,” he said.
“There’s no other goal now than to play as much as I can and to see how it goes this weekend.”
Dragons team: D Evans, T Prydie, A Hughes, P Leach, M Poole, S Jones, J Evans, A Coundley, H Gustafson, D Way, I Nimmo, A Coombs (capt), J Groves, D Waters, T Brown. Replacements: S Parry, N Williams, T Ryan, J Tyler, H Stoddart, I Jones, W Evans, L Robling, J Dixon, A Tuilagi.
Gwent Select team: G O’Driscoll, K Baller, A Awcock, R Wardle, E Frewen, R Powell, R Downes, R Cornock, G Price, K Gaye, D Hodge, C Lodge, P Sargent, R Nash (capt), J Thomas. Replacements: R Hutchinson, A Lott, M Jones, K Maiden, C Attwell, A Powell, A Quick, D Gunter, A Davies, M John.