Sam Hall August 18, 2012
Positive outlook ... Dean Young. Photo: Adam McLean
DEAN YOUNG cuts a solitary figure as he emerges from WIN Stadium's internal training rooms.
It's a sunny Friday morning, three days out from the Dragons' clash with the Cowboys, and the 28-year-old has just finished a lengthy session on an exercise bike.
''I'm battling a bit this week,'' Young admits. ''So we'll have to wait and see closer to the game how I'm travelling.''
The routine for Young is tediously familiar. While his teammates run through their regular on-field drills, he is quietly fighting his own battle. A troublesome knee injury which has effectively shortened his career has become harder than ever to manage.
''In terms of recent years, it's probably the worst it's ever been, but I haven't missed many games,'' Young said. ''It is tough, but I've never really thought about what-ifs to be honest: What would it be like to have a normal knee or what would it be like if I could play longer?
''I'd be wasting my time when I should be spending it focusing on how I can get out onto the field and be the best I can with what I've got.''
Young isn't leaving the remaining what-ifs to go unanswered before his looming retirement. Fighting against the odds this year - including bouncing back the following week from ''that'' Greg Inglis shoulder charge in July - Young has missed only one game so far.
In 12th place and already behind the eight-ball before last night's matches involving the Tigers and Broncos, the Dragons' chances of making the finals aren't ideal. But the Illawarra junior is still champing at the bit to stamp his legacy.
''We want to finish on a good note,'' Young said. ''We're not totally out of it - the Tigers result will probably seal our fate. But while there's still a chance, we're still swinging. There's plenty of motivation there. Obviously for myself and to pay back the fans that have turned up all year.''
Dragons fans will remember the moment Young embraced his father Craig following the side's breakthrough premiership in 2010.
His six-year battle has included other highlights such as Test and State of Origin honours, but it's Young's ability to persevere which draws most pride.
''I'm pretty proud of that to be honest, I'm real proud of that,'' Young said. ''I haven't really sat back and thought about retirement too much. My attention has just been focusing on the next three games and finishing the season the best way we can. The battle of just trying to get my knee right has been the main focus.''
Such is the sentiment for Young the Dragons have gone to every measure to ensure he makes it on the field. In an unspoken kind of way, it's the club's way of reciprocating Young's respect. ''It's a pretty remarkable effort from the staff to get on the field every week with what I've got downstairs,'' Young said. ''When Wayne [Bennett] was here, we were always focusing on getting it better.
''Well this year we knew how bad it was and we just figured getting me on the field by doing zero training, virtually. The body and the mind are going good, it's just the left knee's no good, it can't handle it. It's been a battle and I've enjoyed it. I've loved it.''