Tommy Bowe grateful to Australians for getting him back on the wing
‘I was pretty much told it was curtains when I hurt my hand’
Tommy Bowe training with the Lions at Scotch College in Melbourne, yesterday. The Ireland wing has recovered from a broken hand and will line out for the Lions in the second Test against Australia. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
One of the most significant advancements within the vast Lions machine has been their ever-expanding and ever-improving medical and fitness back-up. Nothing illustrates the point more than Tommy Bowe’s recovery from a broken hand three weeks ago, although it wouldn’t have been possible without support from Australian medics either. Maybe the Aussies are going soft.
When it was feared he had suffered a fracture at Suncorp Stadium three Saturdays ago against the Reds, Bowe’s ensuing scan was facilitated by Ben Kelley opening his X-Radiology Clinic in Brisbane about 3k from the stadium.
After it confirmed the worst, Kelley refused any payment, but within an hour he had received a Lions’ jersey autographed by the entire squad and an autographed Lions rugby ball. By then though, Bowe was so sure his tour had been ended prematurely that he texted his girlfriend and parents, who were in Brisbane, with two words. “Game over.”
Whereupon the Brisbane-based surgeon Dr Peter Rowan, who had operated on Reds and rugby league players with similar injuries, entered the fray when contacted by the Irish team doctor Dr Eanna Halvey, who is part of the Lions’ medical entourage.
“I was pretty much told it was curtains when I hurt my hand,” recalled Bowe yesterday. “On the side of the pitch the doctor just said ‘I’m sorry’. I went for the X-rays and they all showed a fracture, a spiral fracture down through the metacarpal.”
Bowe was even more resigned to his fate until Falvey had the idea of calling Rowan at 11.45pm that night at Kelley’s clinic. “He was the one who said, ‘I’ve had rugby league guys coming back within three weeks, max’, so that was the shining light, the opportunity that there might be a chance to stay on.
“From all the people in the hospital at the time, everybody, a broken bone in the hand, meant six to eight weeks in a cast and that’s curtains. But Dr Rowan just mentioned it to Eanna, that he has had players coming back. It might be sore, you might have to dig in a bit but it’s possible.”
Bowe’s sense of debt to Rowan is incalculable. “In fairness to Dr Rowan, I think he normally sails or does something on a Sunday morning but he came in first thing to come and do the operation. So I owe a huge amount to him.”
Pretty much from the moment the operation was completed Bowe believed he could realistically target this Test, which ensured he and those close to him experienced a whirlwind of emotions. “My family are all over here and I just texted them all to say ‘game over’. I thought that was it. Then all of a sudden, when I got that bit of information at quarter to 12 at night, I was back in the hotel and it was a range of emotion; to go from the lows, thinking your tour is over so early into it to think that you have a chance. I didn’t know whether I’d be back in time for the Test matches but there was always that opportunity and to get picked in it now is an even higher emotion.”