ANDY Bracek insists he will be forever indebted to Crusaders as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.
Welsh international Bracek, 24, penned an 18-month contract with Crusaders earlier this year.
The former St Helens and Warrington star had been without a club following his release by Barrow, and after picking up a serious knee injury, the talented back-rower feared life on the rugby league scrap heap. He even took a job as a labourer to ensure that regular money was coming in to support his family.
However, Crusaders’ head coach Iestyn Harris, who worked closely with Bracek with the Welsh national side, was prepared to take a chance.
The club have worked closely with Bracek on his rehabilitation and he is now just a few weeks away from being cleared to return and he cannot wait to repay the club.
“My recovery is going well,” he said. “I’m hoping to be putting my hand up in six weeks but a lot depends on when I get the okay from the medical staff.
“That is only part of the battle because I then have to force my way into the team. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to get games under my belt but I am confident I can do it.
“I cannot wait to get back playing. I’ve gone through a lot of emotions since I’ve been out and it has been one of the most difficult periods of my life.”
Looking back on his time out from the sport, Bracek added: “I’ve got a young family and I was in a pretty bad place at the start of the year. I didn’t have a club and no-one would touch me because of my injury.
“I’d gone from earning a good wage at Barrow to wondering where my next pay cheque was coming from. I was doing a bit of labouring to get some money and support my family.
“Crusaders came to my rescue so to speak. They took a chance on me when no-one else would and really looked after me when times were tough.
“Everything is going well at the moment and I’m grateful to the club for giving me another crack at Super League.
“I’m taking this opportunity with both hands and I’m going to make the most of it. I want to repay the faith that all the people at the Crusaders have shown in me.
“I’ve also been a bit smarter off the field. Being out for so long has made me appreciate how lucky I am to play rugby league professionally. I’ve been doing a professional trainers course as well whilst I’m here so I’ve got something to fall back on.
“A rugby league player’s career is short to it’s important that you start to think about life outside the sport.”
Bracek will be an interested spectator when Crusaders take on Hull KR at the Racecourse Ground on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
But Harris will be without second row Hep Chaill who has been banned for one match and fined £300 after he was found guilty of a Grade B offence for a late tackle committed on Huddersfield Giants half-back Kevin Brown in Crusaders’ 40-12 defeat.
Early bird tickets for the match are now available, starting at £15 for adults and £7 for children and can be bought online at www.crusadersrfl.com by calling the ticket office on 0871 221 9511 or by visiting the Mold Road club shop.