Rugby

Wolfpack's 'unluckiest' player Chase Stanley sees positives despite injuries

League-leading Toronto Wolfpack (15-1-1) looks to stretch its win streak in the second-tier Betfred Championship to 14 on Saturday when it hosts the eighth-place Barrow Raiders (5-8-3) at Lamport Stadium.

29-year-old centre has had surgery on both shoulders, left knee twice

Chase Stanley, seen on the practice pitch in Toronto on Wednesday, was once described as "one of the unluckiest players, from perhaps the unluckiest family," to take up rugby league. (Neil Davidson / The Canadian Press)

Ask Chase Stanley to detail his surgeries and the former New Zealand rugby league international makes like he's playing Simon Says.

The 29-year-old Toronto Wolfpack centre touches his left shoulder and then right shoulder — both twice — and then his left knee twice.

His 100th game in Australia's National Rugby League ended in tears in April 2016 when he was forced off the field with a torn hamstring. In a league whose regular season lasts 24 games, it took him nearly a decade to mark the milestone.

"Stanley is one of the unluckiest players, from perhaps the unluckiest family, to take up the game," the Sydney Morning Herald wrote in December 2016.

The family reference was to younger brother Kyle, who retired at 24 after five knee operations. Kyle, who is now working on getting his carpenter qualifications, blew out his knee 10 minutes into the first game the brothers played together with the St. George Illawarra Dragons.

Rather than dwell on "a couple of setbacks," Chase prefers to see the positives.

Stanley still 'grateful'

"To do what we do every day, to play footie and actually do it as a job, you look back and be grateful for the opportunities that you get that other people don't have," he said. "I guess that's what keeps me going."

The six-foot-two 213-pounder says he still gets goose bumps when he takes the field.

"Once that wears off, I guess I'll hang it up. Not any time soon," he said with a chuckle.

League-leading Toronto (15-1-1) looks to stretch its win streak in the second-tier Betfred Championship to 14 on Saturday when it hosts the eighth-place Barrow Raiders (5-8-3) at Lamport Stadium.

The Wolfpack have not lost since a 47-16 defeat at the London Broncos on Feb. 25.

'He's got class'

Stanley, who signed with Toronto in late March, played for the Dragons (twice), Melbourne Storm and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in the NRL.

It was a stop-and-start career at times. He played just six games in 2015, four in 2016 and 10 in 2017.

But Stanley, a smooth and elegant runner with the ball, has been healthy at the Wolfpack other than a few niggling issues.

"He's got class," said coach Paul Rowley, a former England hooker. "And I think the better the level we play, the better he'll be. He deserves to be on the big stage."

"There's plenty of rugby left in him," Rowley added.

Barrow plagued by injuries

Stanley's wife and three boys — aged eight, six and three — have joined him in Toronto.

"I'm loving it," he said. "Obviously something different but the time here's been great."

Toronto is missing Ashton Sims (calf), Jack Bussey (foot), Gary Wheeler (quad) and Adam Higson (collarbone). While hooker Bob Beswick returns from a two-game suspension, forward Andrew Dixon is facing a one-match ban.

Toronto and Barrow played to an 8-8 draw in Round 2 in England on Feb. 11. The Wolfpack won 16-12 when they met at Barrow on April 22 in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

Barrow has been hit by injuries recently, dressing just 15 players in a 52-14 loss to Featherstone last time out. Rowley, who counts Barrow manager Paul Crarey as a friend, has sent wingers Jonny Pownall and Ryan Burroughs to the Raiders on loan, although neither can play Saturday against the Wolfpack.

Winger Chris Fleming, who retired from pro rugby midway through last season, and Ben Garner, who has played for the British amateur side, have joined the Raiders on an emergency basis.

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