Kieran Longbottom: Sale Sharks prop says every step of recovery was painful
When Sale Sharks prop Kieran Longbottom started the game at Worcester Warriors on Saturday, it ended a 714-day nightmare.
It was Longbottom's first start in a professional match since injuring his foot playing for Saracens against Gloucester in 2014 - an injury that saw him undergo two operations, spend six months with a protective boot on and left him needing to learn how to run again.
"I've had a rough time since I came to England originally," the 30-year-old told BBC Sport.
"It felt a bit emotional just before kick-off, I just got very excited. But as soon as that whistle went and the ball was in the air, from that point on it was just business."
Longbottom started four of the opening six games for Saracens after joining the club in 2014 before he suffered his Lisfranc injury, where bones in the mid-section of the foot are broken or ligaments supporting them are torn.
The area was so damaged, he likened his walking style at the time to Kevin Spacey's Robert 'Verbal' Kint character in the film The Usual Suspects.
"I literally couldn't walk without pain," he said. "Trying to run and train on it just sucked, everyday was really rough.
"I actually got a small tear in my Achilles in my other foot because I was just limping all the time and overloading my other leg.
"It was a pretty rough road and 2015 was a pretty dark year for me, but in 2016 I've had the surgery and things are going really, really well."
Learning to run
Longbottom moved to England in 2014 when he joined Saracens from Super Rugby side Western Force, but after failing to make an appearances last season because of his injured foot, he moved north to Sale and made three substitute appearances for his new club before his first start.
"Just to be able to walk down to the shops and go and have a coffee with my missus is enjoyable," said the Perth-born prop.
Asked about the idea of retirement, he said: "I thought about it because everyday was just painful, every single step.
"It was not a great time to be around me so I want to thank my fiancée for staying with me, along with everyone else that stood by me and supported me."
Longbottom, who has played on either side of the front-row, says although his foot needs ongoing minor treatment, he no longer thinks about the problem everyday.
However, he admits he is "still working on the imbalances" he adopted because of the change in the way he walked and ran with the injury.
'It's just water'
Football. Music. Rain. Manchester is a city famous for many things.
But for a man who spent 23 months without an appearance in a first team, Manchester's climate was the least of his worries.
"I'm so grateful to Sale for giving me the opportunity," Longbottom said.
"I need to prove and show that I still belong here. I know I've got a lot to give. Each week I just want to repay it and keep doing everything I can to show I belong in the Premiership.
"I have to honestly say I never thought I'd be living in Manchester being a Perth boy in Western Australia - there it is sunny pretty much 360 days a year.
"Manchester is an awesome city as it reminds me a lot of Perth - it's not that big, it's a little bit quirky and has a really good cafe culture, which I've grown up with back home.
"I've heard a lot about how rainy it can get up here but I'm cool with that, it's just water."
When Longbottom moved from Force to Saracens in 2014, he realised he was eligible to represent his new home country through his late maternal grandmother.
The tight-head has previously spoken about being open to representing England and has not changed his mind.
"It is definitely something I would consider," he said. "It's still there, but all I'm aspiring to do is play as well as I can and get back to a level I know I can get to.
"If things like that come along, then that is fantastic."