As he prepares to begin pre-season training, Wests Tigers rookie Asu Kepaoa admits there was a bright side to the nine-month stint of rehabilitation after rupturing his ACL in April.
The former Roosters winger was five games into his 2021 campaign when he suffered the disastrous injury that all athletes fear.
However, Kepaoa took solace from the fact he was able to remain in Sydney to continue his recovery while his partner Jade gave birth to the couple's first child in May.
It may have been the case of him missing the early months of being a father if he joined the rest of his Wests Tigers teammates in Queensland when the competition shifted north.
Kepaoa remained in Sydney with injured teammate Zane Musgrove to overcome their setbacks together.
"There are positives and negatives to any situation," Kepaoa told NRL.com.
"At the start when I did my knee it was hard, I fought a few demons going through the same process every day, it was getting old.
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"You miss the footy part, you just want to be out there with the boys. It felt like a lonely place training by yourself and doing the same stuff.
"But since I've started running everything has flowed and I've felt sweet. My partner and little brother helped me heaps. My dad was also here from New Zealand so made it easier for me.
"I've been able to take my daughter out and watch her grow up in the first couple of months."
While many NRL players dread the thought of returning to pre-season training, Kepaoa was looking forward to reuniting with his teammates on Wednesday - many of whom he hadn't seen in months.
The 21-year-old is more than six months into his rehab and aims to be selected for the trials after just starting change of direction running.
"I want to be part of that team environment again," he said.
"My first five games were my highlight but then going into this year my five games I felt I was a bit complacent and took stuff for granted.
"Madge (Michael Maguire) has been helping me heaps to get my mindset straight.
"Mentally and physically I wasn't ready for this year but he's always checking up on me.
"This ACL injury has helped me reset and be determined to go better next year."
Kepaoa will remain on light duties compared to the rest of his Wests Tigers teammates, many of whom returned to pre-season training on Wednesday.
Players from the Bulldogs, Dragons and Cowboys are also due to commence pre-season training this week, with the Sharks, Raiders, Warriors and Broncos to follow next week.
Among those to arrive at Concord this week was new recruit Jackson Hastings, who will begin training with the Tigers squad later this month after returning from England, where he played for Wigan in this year's Super League.
"I've worked so hard to give myself a chance back in the NRL, got plenty of work to still do on and away from the field but I’m determined to tick them boxes," Hastings said in a tweet on Tuesday.
"Appreciate the support, can't wait to get started officially in a few weeks."
The Tigers have also signed English centre OIiver Gildart from Wigan, while former NSW Origin utility Tyrone Peachey has joined the club after three seasons with the Titans.