After an unfortunate end to his time at the Parramatta Eels, utility Ray Stone has spoken about the challenges of his ACL recovery, the difficulty in watching his team make a grand final without him, and his excitement for the next chapter with the Dolphins.
Stone suffered the brutal ACL injury in unique fashion, sustaining the injury while scoring the match-winning try for Parramatta against Melbourne back in Round 3.
Mitch Moses' field goal attempt hit the post and Stone was rewarded for being the only player to chase the attempt, but he felt the knee go as he stepped past Jahrome Hughes to score the match-winner.
“The first two weeks (after the injury) were pretty hard,” Stone told AAP.
“I was sitting on the couch getting bored out of my brain. I had my dog and two kids that just wanted to play all the time, but I couldn't.
“Once I got walking and running again I was half(way) back to living normally.”
Stone was just the second player to join the NRL's newest franchise when he signed on, with the Dolphins targeting Stone for his natural talent and renowned work-rate. According to Dolphins recruitment chief Peter O'Sullivan, those attributes make Stone “a Wayne Bennett-style of player.”
The 25-year-old is looking forward to working under the highly-respected mentor.
“I spoke to (Bennett) on Zoom once but I don't think the connection was that good. I couldn't hear too much of what he was saying,” Stone said.
“I've heard a lot of good things about him, so I'm definitely keen to see what all the hype is about.”
Having played just 31 NRL games to this point, Stone knows he still has a lot of developing to do at the Dolphins. Luckily, he has a number of experienced premiership winners in the team to learn from, including former Storm stars Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers.
“There are a lot of people who know how to play big games and that's something I need to draw off,” Stone said.
“With the experience we have in this team across the board I definitely think we can do some damage in the competition.”
After such a long lay-off, Stone is also happy to offer Bennett with some utility value, offering to take any available position to prove his worth. Though he has started at lock and dummy-half during his career so far, he's willing to utilise his versatility.
“If I play lock, I'm happy. I'll play back row, hooker, centre – whatever I get chucked in as, I'm happy to do.”