Raiders netminder Brad Windebank says his third period game time on Saturday was one of the best of his career.
The teenager played the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s 7-3 loss to Sheffield Steeldogs to finally make his comeback since an enforced absence due to a serious shoulder injury then the coronavirus shutdown.
But despite the final result, being up against the calibre of opponents he was made it all worthwhile after a long time out.
“The 20 minutes last Saturday were probably the best in my career,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time I’ve been out and it affected me mentally and physically and it’s not every day to get to come up against Liam Kirk and Jonathan Phillips.
“I had no idea I was going to play on Saturday. The coach had told me to be ready beforehand, but I never gave it much thought.
“When the fourth goal went in, he told me I had the third period and to be ready so I had to get my head in the game as quickly as possible.
“I’ll admit, it was daunting playing against those guys and the quality they have, but these opportunities don’t come around too often so you have to treasure it while you can.
“It was a massive opportunity for me and I won’t lie, I’m keen to get back and play more. I’m training hard and hoping to create some competition for that starting slot.”
Windebank was given a start in the pre-season game with Bracknell Bees at the beginning of last season, happy with the work he had put in to earn the spot between the pipes.
As the 18-year-old takes up the story, he spoke about his injury and the long road he had to take to get himself back to full fitness.
And he revealed he was all set to come back last February, but something far bigger was to put his and everyone else’s career on hold.
He added: “We’d been training hard all summer and the coach told me I was starting, so I was over the moon.
“I only lasted 28 seconds when one of their players hit the shot, I tried to push it with my blocker and I felt my shoulder pop.
“I didn’t think anything of it, but then I’d discovered I was shaking. I went off and returned to the locker room. Initially I was told I would be back within two to three weeks.
“It kept playing up so I returned to the hospital where they told me I’d dislocated it and they sent me for another scan where I discovered I had torn two of my muscles in my shoulder.
“I didn’t expected it would take so long and the two to three weeks I was initially told I could live with. It was frustrating as I’d worked so hard throughout the summer to get where I was.
“It went on and on and I had to go to appointment after appointment, not to mention the 12 weeks of physiotherapy and two MRI scans.
“To me, it kept getting better and better, but an injury like that, you have to be careful otherwise it could be made worse if it happens again and you may need an operation.
“I started training lightly again in February and getting ready to take on a bit more, but then coronavirus happened and the league had to shut down. For me, my hopes for coming back then were taken away.”
But now he’s back and Raiders have only one game this weekend, as they host Bees, ironically the team he was hurt against.
With both teams looking for their first win of the Spring Cup, Windebank was clear in the importance of the game.
“It’s a must win game on Friday,” he said. “If we played against Telford the way we played against Steeldogs, we could have got something from it.
“Sheffield have great quality in their team as we saw, but Bees have a similar team to us, in that they’ve replaced their imports with two Elite League players so we have to beat them. Simple as that.“