Wests Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle says the mental challenges of his injury history outweigh the physical but he's now fit and ready for a contract year.
Since Liddle's debut in late 2016, his injury checklist has included a season-ending shoulder injury in late 2017 that impacted his 2018 season and a full knee blowout that included a ruptured ACL in late 2019 that sidelined him for another year.
All up, Liddle has played 44 games across five seasons, in a period that has seen Robbie Farah return to the club then retire, Matt Ballin recruited before he retired, and Harry Grant brought over on a loan deal before going back to Melbourne.
Liddle told NRL.com the physical challenges of returning were nothing compared to the mental challenges, but he is in a great space now.
"I'm feeling good – all intact," he laughed. "Full summer. I came back and probably got six games at the end of the season.
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"I wasn't expecting to get back last season but I was happy to get that out of the way. Trained a full pre-season and feeling strong.
"It's been really great, great for my body, great for my game. Great for the mind too, going into season off a big pre-season."
Liddle doesn't shy away from how tough things got after the knee injury, having only just reclaimed a starting spot thanks to a Farah injury in 2019.
"Yeah it was tough. There's a lot of mental stuff around it. I think that's probably most of it," he said.
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"The physical stuff, we train every day, you can get through that easy. It's about the support around you, keeping that positive mindset, not looking too far down the road. You get back. It takes time but you get back eventually.
"That's been my goal, just to keep plugging away. I'm ready to go now."
There has been a great show of faith from the club in the former Australian Schoolboys and NSW under 20s hooker.
"They've been great. They've got me through there surgeries now, they supported me the whole way," he added.
"Madge [coach Michael Maguire] has been great. I think I've brought my game a long way since I debuted in 2016."
When the 24-year-old runs out on Sunday, fans can expect to see a hooker who has developed his talking game over the summer as he has built his confidence in a new-look side that piled on a huge 52-18 trial win over Manly.
"When I was younger I probably wasn't the best communicator," Liddle said.
"It's something I've worked on a lot, I've come a long way since then. I think I've come on leaps and bounds this pre-season, so I'm really happy with that."
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Liddle will be a key man for several reasons this year; his speed and fitness under the new, faster rules could be a huge asset.
"I'd love to [play 80 minutes]," he added.
"I think that's the goal for every hooker, especially with limited interchanges. But whatever Madge wants to do, if he wants to put another hooker on the bench or wherever he wants me, I'll just play that role.
"The hooker is involved in everything. I think a bit of speed out of there really helps, it goes a long way with these new rules. It's going to be fast."
Off-contract at the end of the year, Liddle knows how important 2021 is but after some major setbacks, isn't looking too far ahead just yet.
"This is the final year [of my current deal]; obviously it's in the back of every player's mind when you're coming off contract," he said.
"I'm just grateful to be back on the field to be honest. It's been a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of years, I'm just grateful to be out there again that's the main thing."