FOR as long as Tech-Waratahs teammates had wondered where their next win was coming from, Tim Olsen had figured retirement was the best option.
After more than 300 games and the accolades which come with being a premiership winner, former coach and Illawarra rugby player of the year, a degenerative back condition had forced him from the field in 2015.
At the same time, the Wollongong club had slumped to its lowest ebb, struggling for numbers, let alone points.
So there was a synergy about Olsen returning to first grade on Saturday, as Tech-Tahs marched to a drought-breaking 38-13 victory over Campbelltown.
“I’ve been lucky with my recovery, a lot of people don’t get the same opportunity,” he said.
“But retirement was the first thing to come into my head when they told me I needed surgery.
“I figured I didn't have a lot to prove in rugby, I’d had a lot of success, so I didn’t need to risk playing again.
“Thankfully I got another chance, but I didn’t have much to do with it out there, it was just great to see the guys celebrate a win after what the club has been through.”
Olsen had made his comeback in second grade last weekend, before playing the final 15 minutes on Saturday, as the floodgates opened after the Waratahs had led 14-6 at half-time.
Having won premierships in 2004, ‘05 and ‘09, bulging discs in his back threatened his mobility, let alone his ability to win a lineout. Tech-Tahs, the whipping boys of 2016, tasted one of the sweetest wins of the club’s history, overpowering the Harlequins in a game played at the home ground of third grade new boys the Southern Crushers at Albion Park.
But even in the joyous moments of a breakthrough win, Olsen is setting the bar high for Tech-Tahs, on the road to Illawarra rugby recovery.
“We’ve heard for a while about how there’s a top half and a bottom half in the competition, so it’s motivating to get us pushing some of the better teams.
“The club has worked really hard to get back to this point and hopefully it’s just the start of some more success.”
They face premiers University, again at Albion Park, on Saturday.
Club president Graham Letham praised the commitment of the Tech-Tahs players, coach Elliott O’Donnell and Olsen, in keeping the faith.
“The vibe has actually been really good around the club, it’s a credit to them,” Letham said.
“Towards the end of last year, the second grade disintegrated, but there’s a lot of guys who have worked hard and built the club up to be competitive again.
“To have Timmy Olsen back training and playing again has made a huge difference.”
Showing the intent – and extent of their turnaround – the win over Campbelltown comes after they lost 64-nil in the final round of the 2016 season.
Tech-Tahs won the reserve grade 15-nil.