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Dean Rice - Beating the pain barrier

Author: LEN JOHNSON
Date: 18/05/1995
Words: 1296
          Publication: The Age
Section: FRIDAY FOOTBALL
Page: 36
Injury has been cruel to Dean Rice. It forced his departure from St Kilda and then he was struck down again in his debut game for his new club Carlton. But exactly one year later Rice is back on the ground determined to help take the Blues to a premiership.

Coming back a year to the day after your knee injury, what were your thoughts?

I started on the bench. Leading up to the game I tried to treat it as just another game, but the couple of hours at the ground I was starting to get pretty nervous and I was nervous on the bench. I was just glad to get on.

Did you place any significance on the fact that it was one year exactly.

It was Friday the 13th last year. Early in the week I found out about it, and I was hoping that the anniversary would be a good omen to carry through on to Saturday, which it was. We won. I played all right.

A year is a long time out. How did you cope?

You just set yourself goals and challenges, and you use those goals and challenges as motivations to keep persisting and doing the rehab.

Did the rehabilitation process always go smoothly?

There's always setbacks along the way, but I didn't have any major ones. I had a bit of swelling and soreness as I got back. We've got a club psychologist here (Anthony Stewart) and he says: ``Instead of using it as a setback, just say it was a hiccup". Use it as a hiccup and get back on with it, and that's what I did.

Who else was important in the rehab?

Col Seery was very good, making sure I did the right things and looked after myself. The medical staff, the two physios and the club doctor and the orthopaedic surgeon, Peter Wilson.

Did Col ever have to drag you out, or did you always keep the motivation up?

Oh no. I always kept the motivation up. I started the rehab program under Col (Seery) about four to six weeks after the operation, swimming and bike riding. It was one day on, one day off at first. I got back into full training at the start of the pre-season in November. It was a little earlier than they thought I would.

It was the second time you'd needed a reconstruction on the same knee.

Did you think when it happened that it was the end of your career?

I knew that I did it the second time. At the time you just wonder why.

How could you ever do it again? I thought I'd never ever do it again.

And you're thinking, ``why me?", and all that sort of stuff. The first couple of weeks are hard. You think about giving it away.

But Carlton have been fantastic to me, David Parkin was fantastic.

When I was in hospital, he came in and saw me three times. He said to me, ``Look, you're still a young man. You've got plenty of time and footy left. We'll hold on to you and give you every chance to get back." I just used all the positives they gave me as motivation.

Going back to your earlier days, your dad (John Rice) was a football journalist. Was that a help to you?

I was probably born and bred to football, so that probably helped me in the long term. Dad still writes for Truth and that. I always went to games. He took me along to the rooms. I used to barrack for St Kilda, and he'd take me down to the St Kilda rooms, that sort of stuff.

A lot of players don't like dealing with media. Does your background help?

Not really. Dad never sat me down and talked about it all. (Being able to cope) is just one of those things. I've always dealt with the media pretty well. Dad doesn't like writing about me, because he thinks that's a bit biased, so he just doesn't write about me.

When you were with Geelong, you shared a house with ``Buddha" (Garry Hocking).

We didn't actually share a house, but we were good mates, we used to hang around together. We lived down there for nine months together. I met Buddha through Geelong.

You got into a few scrapes together apparently?

Yeah. It was written up that way, but we weren't like that. We were just two young blokes doing what young blokes do.

Any truth in the story that they thought they could rescue one of you and make a footballer out of one, but not both?

Nah. It was my choice to leave Geelong and come back to Melbourne. I was a bit homesick down there.

You made your debut at St Kilda in 1987 and were there for seven seasons. In that time it was a roller coaster, both personally and for the club. You had injuries, interstate football, finals football and a couple of wooden spoons.

The first five years I was there, I played 80 games straight, and from the time I started we just got better and better. We played in the finals (in 1991) before I did my knee the first time. The last couple of years I had a few ups and downs with injuries.

Was it a good club for you?

My time there was good. I enjoyed it. I'd always barracked for St Kilda and they were good to me.

What about the wild times there. There was always a lot of turmoil off the field?

The players really didn't have much to do with that. As players do, we just got together and played footy.

How does it compare to here?

Two different clubs. Carlton's been a successful club, and St Kilda's never been that successful. As the old saying goes, ``success breeds success".

St Kilda always had the attitude they'd virtually do anything to get success some silly things, some good things, that's the way it is.

Did that make the good times better there, because they didn't taste success that often?

Definitely. Whenever we had success down there they'd treat it like winning a premiership, which was probably not good in the long term but it was good at the time.

I think sometimes they needed success so badly down there, it put a lot of pressure on people.

How did you come to be cut from the list?

St Kilda let me go because of my knee. I hurt it in the 1994 pre- season, and they thought I'd be out for a lot longer than I thought, than I knew, I would be. Stan Alves just said to me that they couldn't hold me when I was injured with just 42 on the list. I hadn't signed a contract, so I left. I'd always planned to stay there and play there.

Things came about like they did. It was their choice.

Looking back at it now, you'd had a lot of interruptions after a good start to your senior career. Was it a good time to leave?

It probably was. It's just a pity I did my knee last year. The way Carlton are going now, they're going to have a lot of success here and I hope I can be a part of it.

This is your ninth season of senior football. With normal luck, you could be up around 200 games (he has played 118). How do you feel to be not much over half that total?

I don't dwell on it too much. If you do, you get depressed and upset.

You look to the good things, look to the positives, and use them as motivation.

My goal is to stay in the senior team, play to the best of my ability, and hopefully win a premiership with Carlton.

Some St Kilda people called you a mini-Ablett because of your speed, explosive power and ability to take a mark. A Carlton man said you had some of the characteristics of Wayne Harmes. How do you feel about those sort of comparisons?

They're good because they're great players. But I just play my own game and if I remind someone of another player, all the better.

 
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