Edrick Lee displayed tremendous professionalism and maturity to come back from a serious foot injury to play in the final five matches of the season, in which the Raiders finished with three victories.
After scoring 13 tries in his first 16 NRL appearances, Lee had emerged as one of the brightest attacking prospects in the game.
Alongside Ricky Stuart and Jarrod Croker, he was one of the faces of the Raiders membership commercials for 2014 and was primed for his best season ever.
Lee started the season in fitting fashion scoring the Raiders first try of the year in the 10th minute of the Round 1 clash against the North Queensland Cowboys.
The following week, Lee’s star continued to rise when he scored the match winning try against the Newcastle Knights in the 79th minute.
In what has become synonymous with Lee’s spectacular tries, the charismatic winger’s tongue was joyfully sticking out of his mouth as his team mates ecstatically swooped on him with cameramen snapping away.
Unfortunately just 32 minutes into the Round 3 match against the Gold Coast Titans, Lee suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot, with specialists deciding surgery was the only way to repair the severe ligament damage.
The recovery period entailed that he would supposedly miss the remainder of the 2014 season.
As you would imagine, the news was greeted with despair by the Raiders faithful and Stuart echoed their feelings.
“Edrick is a real strike weapon for us out wide and he’s going to be sorely missed for the remainder of the year,” Stuart said at the time.
“He is a young player on the rise and we’ll make sure he gets the best rehabilitation after his surgery and we know he’ll be back bigger and better for us next year.”
Although incredibly disappointed to have his season halted due to injury yet again, Lee showed maturity and professionalism beyond his years throughout his rehabilitation process.
It was through this maturity and professionalism that Lee was able to come back way ahead of schedule and his inclusion in the Round 22 team announcement was greeted with a rapturous response from Canberra’s fans on social media.
The former Queensland Under 20’s representative had an immediately positive effect on the Raiders’ play in his return from injury. This was highlighted when he collected a cross-field kick, drew in the converging Parramatta defenders before popping the ball overhead to Jarrod Croker to score the Raiders second try.
Whilst Lee had a quiet game the following week in the 32-16 loss to arch rivals the St George Illawarra Dragons (his first home match of the year), his form steadily increased over the next three games which were all won by the Green Machine.
After playing his first two return matches on the wing, Lee was switched to the centres for the final three matches of the year with rookie Jeremy Hawkins reverting to the wing role.
Lee handled the added defensive workload of playing at centre remarkably well and proved his versatility by the success he had at alternating between the two positions, which gives Stuart food for thought for 2015.
Looking towards next year, Raiders fans and Lee himself, will be praying for an injury free season.
Despite registering several tries that will feature on Raiders highlight reels for years to come, Lee is yet to reach double figures for games played in a season since making his NRL debut in 2012. The closest he came was nine games in 2013.
Average Minutes: 74
Try Assists: 1
Try Saves: 1
Line Breaks: 4
Line Break Assists: 2
Tackle Breaks: 14
Average Metres: 72
Average Tackles: 8.4
Kick Metres: 3 kicks for 26