Rulon Nutira’s Redcliffe return is a relief in more ways than one

Story by Rikki-Lee Arnold, The Courier-Mail
March 29, 2017

JUST getting through the pre-game warm-up against Easts two weeks ago was an exciting achievement for Redcliffe forward Rulon Nutira.

The whistle had not sounded but nothing could wipe the smile from his face.

It was a fresh start for Nutira after a horror 2016 season in which he suffered his first serious injury, but also endured an off-field pain few knew about.

It was Round 14 against Townsville when the towering prop snapped his achilles tendon while trying to stop Blackhawks danger man Matt Bowen.

It was a tough hit to take, but nothing compared to what he was facing off the field.

Only weeks before, Nutira’s longtime partner Kata McLean discovered she had cervical cancer.

It was devastating news, but 27-year-old Nutira remained positive and focused throughout his achilles rehabilitation.

“My injury was nothing compared to what we had to fight through for her,” he said.

“That was my motivation to get back.

“I went to physio three or four times a week. She was going through treatment every day. I never felt sorry once for myself.’’

With twin nine-year-old daughters and a four-year-old son, life was difficult for the couple as the injury also forced Nutira to take a break from his job as a scaffolder.

The family were prepared to battle through it together, but found they had plenty of help from the Dolphins.

Nutira spoke to CEO Grant Cleal and Redcliffe skipper Sam Anderson spoke to the squad.

Before he knew it, his family had all the support they could ask for.

“We don’t have any immediate family close in Queensland so we were stuck on our own,” he said.

“Grant Cleal and the Dolphins were beside us the whole way. Every time I popped up at training or on a game day they were genuinely concerned. Every now and then one of the players would pop over and drop off dinner to us.

“It was embarrassing to accept everything but I felt all the boys cared.’’

The nine-month battle made Nutira’s return to the field even sweeter, marking the end of the toughest year he has endured.

“When you work so hard for something, to get your jersey back and to run out like that, it was just a big relief,” he said. “It was like, ‘I’m here, I’m back’.

“The whole warm-up I couldn’t get the smile off my face.”

But the best news of all is the progress his partner is making. Kata has responded well to treatment and the results are positive.

“We went through a tough few months last year but all the treatment has worked and she’s in remission,” he said. “She’s got her bounce back.”