By MITCHELL DALE
IN the lead-up to this year's annual Group 2-Group 3 representative match, things couldn't get much better for live-wire Orara Valley halfback Tyler Corfe.
Fresh from being crowned the best player of last year's reserve grade competition after leading Coffs Harbour to a premiership, Corfe was one of the Axemen's prized off-season signings.
From Orara's first sweat-soaked training session of the off-season, the 19-year-old impressed the club's coaching staff and looked set for a bumper 2005 season.
In the club's trial matches, Corfe struck an immediate combination with Axemen legend Brett Davis in the halves and was later rewarded with his first senior representative jersey.
But that was when things went horribly wrong.
Not long after Corfe was thrust into the action for Group 2, he went to step off his left foot.
His left knee give out and he hobbled straight to the sidelines and took no further part in the match.
"I knew straight away that I was in trouble because I felt it pop out and back in," Corfe said.
"But I hoped it was just a pulled muscle and that I would only be out for a few weeks."
No such luck.
Corfe was later informed he had snapped his crucial ligament - the same injury suffered by Sawtell captain-coach Craig Wallace - and surgery was necessary.
While Wallace remains hopeful of returning late in the year, 2005 will be a write-off for Corfe.
"The earliest I can have surgery will be June and the physio has told me I won't be running at full-strength until November," Corfe said.
"I'm pretty disappointed, I was looking forward to having a good year at Orara and it started really well.
"I was loving it there, they are a really good bunch of blokes and really look after you.
"I was learning heaps from Brett (Davis), which makes it a bit harder to take as well."
Orara Valley captain-coach Brad Hart says Corfe will leave a big hole in the side.
"Tyler's going to be a big loss, he was bloody killing it early on," Hart said.
"He was starting to really find his feet and take a bit of control.
"He was a big part of our team this year, although he still is, all our injured players are."
It's not the first time Corfe's season has been wrecked by a major injury.
"Last year was my first season back after two years off with a broken arm," he said.
"I broke it playing Under-18s and needed two plates in my arm."
Unfortunately, all that is left now for Corfe is to look ahead to 2006.
"Hopefully I'll be fine to come back next year," he said.