Brisbane Broncos NRL player Pat Carrigan.
Brisbane lock Pat Carrigan has fought back from a 2021 ACL injury to become one of the NRL's best. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Iceman cometh: how Broncos’ Carrigan battled ACL tear

Joel Gould September 21, 2023

Brisbane lock Pat Carrigan is the iceman on the field and he carried the same title off it for 12 months during his recovery from a serious knee injury.

When Carrigan ruptured his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2021 the jury was out on his ability to come back as an effective footballer. 

Since his return to action last year, the 25-year-old has established himself as a stalwart for Queensland and Australia, and one of the best middle forwards in the game.

That impressive comeback didn’t happen by chance, as Carrigan’s former housemate and current Broncos prop Keenan Palasia revealed ahead of Saturday night’s preliminary final against the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium.

“Patty had a big compression ice machine that he used every single day during his recovery from that ACL,” Palasia, who has come back from multiple serious knee injuries himself, told AAP.

“He’d put ice in it and strap it to his knee. He always went the extra mile.

“Anything he found that other professional athletes had done to help with their ACLs, he would do.

“He did a lot of Pilates. Patty never does anything half-arsed. Everything is 110 per cent.”

Since returning to action, Carrigan has set about dismantling opponents with his ice-cold decision making and calm, metronomic efficiency on the field. 

It wasn’t always like that. He came through tough times at the Broncos in the club’s dark years of 2020 and 2021, when he filled in as captain at times.

“I am not here without a lot of people at the club who put time into me through that rehab,” Carrigan said.

“There were two Irish fellas – a strength coach and physio (called) Ryan Whitley and Crawford Quinn – that I did a lot of work with.

“When I ran into hardships when I was younger I learned you’ve got to put your head down and arse up and work harder to get through it.”

Carrigan admits he had plenty to learn back in 2021.

“Being thrust into things early, with the intensity of footy in Brisbane, you take on a heavy load,” he said.

“Footy probably consumed me a bit so to be able to get away from it … probably helped more than I could have imagined.

“I wouldn’t change any of that. Although you never want an ACL, all those experiences have made me who I am. 

“Keenan Palasia is one of my best mates and I watch him do two (ACL injuries) and to see the footy he is playing now is unreal.

“Maybe if I didn’t have those 12 months off I wouldn’t have been able to work on things and grow on and off the field.”