Young’s battle against all odds

Dean Young with his coach Steve Price. Picture: Adam McLeanDean Young cuts a solitary figure as he emerges from WIN Stadium’s internal training rooms.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s a sunny Friday morning, three days out from the Dragons’ clash with the Cowboys, and the 28-year-old has just finished a lengthy training session on a spinner bike.

“I’m battling a bit this week,” Young candidly admits. “So we’ll have to wait and see closer to the game how I’m travelling.”

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The routine for Young is tediously familiar.

While his team-mates run through their regular on-field drills, he is quietly fighting his own battle. A troublesome knee injury which has effectively shortened his career has become harder than ever to manage.

“In terms of recent years, it’s probably the worst it’s ever been, but I haven’t missed many games,” Young said.

“It is tough, but I’ve never really thought about ‘what-ifs’ to be honest: What would it be like to have a normal knee or what would it be like if I could play longer.

“I’d be wasting my time when I should be spending it focusing on how I can get out onto the field and be the best I can with what I’ve got.”

Tellingly, Young isn’t leaving the remaining what-ifs to go unanswered before his looming retirement.

Fighting against all odds this year – including bouncing back the following week from “that” Greg Inglis shoulder charge in July – Young has missed only one game so far.

In 12th place and already behind the eight-ball before last night’s crucial Tigers and Broncos matches, the Dragons’ final campaign involving Young isn’t ideal.

But the Illawarra junior is still champing at the bit to stamp his legacy.

“We want to finish on a good note,” Young said.

“We’re not totally out of it – we more or less are – the Tigers result will probably seal our fate. But while there’s still a chance, we’re still swinging.

“There’s plenty of motivation there. Obviously for myself and to pay back the fans that have turned up all year.”

Dragons fans will remember the moment Dean embraced his father Craig following the side’s breakthrough premiership in 2010.

His six-year battle has included other highlights like Test and Origin honours, but its Young’s ability to persevere and win which draws most pride.

“I’m pretty proud of that to be honest, I’m real proud of that,” Young said.

“I haven’t really sat back and thought about retirement too much. My attention has just been focusing on the next three games and finishing the season the best way we can.

“The battle of just trying to get my knee right has been the main focus.”

Such is the sentiment for Young that the Dragons have gone to great lengths to ensure he makes the field.

In an unspoken kind of way, it’s the club’s way of reciprocating Dean’s respect.

“It’s a pretty remarkable effort from the staff to get on the field every week with what I’ve got downstairs,” Young said.

“When Wayne was here, we were always focusing on getting it better and trying to get on top of it – well this year we knew how bad it was and we just figured getting me on the field by doing zero training virtually.

“If I was at another club and they made you train a certain day or whatever, I would have been retired a long time ago. The body and the mind are going good, it’s just the left knee’s no good.”

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