Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic has declared himself 100 per cent fit heading into the new season after being hampered by a high ankle sprain throughout 2016 that required off-season surgery.
The 20-year-old first picked up the injury during the 2016 pre-season and aggravated it in the Anzac Day win over the Knights. Ideally he would have had it operated it on, but given Manly's horror injury toll, Trbojevic valiantly fought through the pain to see out the year before eventually going under the knife at season's end.
"I don't think it hindered me too much last year. It was just that I'd pull up sore after games and I wouldn't be able to train because of that reason. That's the only negative that came out of it," he said on Tuesday.
"I had the ankle all fixed up and I've come back to training and I've tried to put a bit of weight on. I lost a lot of weight from the surgery, so I'm weighing about 105 now which is a couple of kilos up from last year.
"It stabilised my ankle up so I do feel a lot fitter. I've been working hard with the strength and conditioning coach, Dan [Ferris] and the rehab staff to get that all better. I've been training really hard on the field so I feel a lot fitter and a lot stronger so hopefully that helps me out this year.
"I was in a cast for two weeks and then I was in a boot for another four on top of that, and then I got the boot off and started walking around. It was a bit of a long process, but once it was done it was quite an easy transition back onto the field.
"It feels 100 per cent. Obviously playing in the two trials gave me a lot of confidence because I had no problems with it. I'm just hoping it stays that way throughout the year and I can have an injury-free year."
With club legend Brett Stewart retired due to a chronic knee injury, Trbojevic is the Sea Eagles' heir apparent set to make the No.1 jersey his own for the next decade.
Already touted as an Origin player-in-waiting, Trbojevic could be forgiven for getting caught up in all the hype.
But the level-headed youngster has no ambitions to replace the 'Prince of Brookvale' as the 'Lord of Lottoland' with Trbojevic paying special tribute to the man who helped him make the transition into first grade.
"Brett Stewart is probably one of the best fullbacks to have played for this club. If I can do half the things he did in his game then I'd be very happy. They are obviously very big shoes to fill, but I'll just be looking to do the best that I can," he said.
"I just try to keep a level head. I know that I've got to do a role in this team and that's all I'm focussing on. I just try to do the best I can week in week out and don't try to get mixed up in all that (hype)."
The 20-year-old has played wing, centre and fullback since making his debut two seasons ago, but has only played 12 of his 32 games in his preferred position at the back.
That will change in 2017, and Trbojevic wants to repay the faith shown by coach Trent Barrett.
"It does help a lot because that's where I enjoy playing the most," he said.
"Getting an opportunity to start there, I need to thank Trent for doing that. I'm just hoping to stay injury free and hoping I can hold down that No.1 spot and do the best I can for the team."
This article first appeared on NRL.com