Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds says the pain of missing Game III of last year's State of Origin series is driving him harder than ever before as he looks to rebound from what he can only describe as a "frustrating" 12 months on the field.
The 26-year-old was restricted to a career-low 16 games last season as the Rabbitohs failed to play finals footy for the first time since 2011.
Injuries seemed to strike every time Reynolds played his best football, with the halfback forced to endure several stints on the sidelines for the second year in a row.
The year got off to a horror start for the 2014 premiership winner with Reynolds taken from the field after 58 minutes in the Round 1 win over the Roosters with a broken jaw.
Things looked to have improved upon his return as he fought his way into the NSW Blues side for his Origin debut, only to be ruled out of the dead-rubber with a shoulder injury.
A hamstring strain in the Round 23 win in New Zealand overshadowed a freakish individual display that saw Reynolds set up three tries in the first half alone, before he suffered a concussion the following week against the Sharks.
The gifted playmaker finished 2016 with a career low 95 points, and is hoping he can stay fit after an injury-plagued 24 months.
"It was a bit of a patchy season, to be honest. From injuries, to making my debut in State of Origin, there were many highs and many lows. It was a year of frustration for me," Reynolds told NRL.com.
"It's always frustrating getting injuries. It's never easy sitting it out a few weeks or having niggling injuries that sort of hamper you from week to week.
"For me it was all about staying positive and the focus was on finishing the year on a high after so many injuries. I couldn't have done that without my teammates. They definitely pushed me every week at training and I think we finished off the year well.
"I couldn't get the number of games that I wanted on the park, but in saying that, I've had a great pre-season along with the rest of the squad as well. It's been challenging but I'm looking forward to 2017."
Having had a taste of State of Origin last season, Reynolds’s goal is to fight his way back into the Blues side as they attempt to end Queensland's recent run of dominance.
Reynolds had to watch on as Matt Moylan and James Maloney steered the Blues to victory in Game Three, with Michael Jennings's late try propelling the Blues to an 18-14 victory at ANZ Stadium.
The 26-year-old will have plenty of competition for the No.7 jersey with Maloney, Mitchell Pearce and Nathan Cleary all in contention for the coveted role, and Reynolds revealed he had already spoken to Blues coach Laurie Daley about what needs to be done to win back his spot.
"I want to play more Origin and that's probably made me train a lot greater having had that hurt and that setback," he said.
"It was definitely frustrating watching on the sidelines, as you can imagine. It's a game that everyone wants to be involved in, so to get ruled out with injury is never easy.
"I was hurting on the night, but I was definitely pumped for the boys. I was over the moon they got the win. I'd formed so many good relationships in that team. With all the boys there, it's definitely something I want to get back to this year.
"I've spoken to Laurie briefly. It was just a brief chat on various things I can get better in. I know myself a few things where I might have missed the chance in Game I or Game II. It's just about making the most of your opportunities."
It's that message that Reynolds wants to pass on to young teammate Connor Tracey, who suffered a serious knee injury last season and faces an extended period away from the game.
Reynolds can empathise with the young half given he was forced to miss the entire 2011 season after tearing his ACL during the pre-season.
"I used 2011 when I did my knee as a learning year. I knew I couldn't play so I wanted to learn off video, I wanted to learn a lot off the players we had at the club," Reynolds said.
"We've got a young fella here, Connor Tracey, who's in the same sort of position. He's got the world at his feet and he's got a lot to learn.
"If any young player has a season-ending injury, I think it's a time to work on your body and get yourself mentally prepared for bigger things to come."
This article first appeared on NRL.com