Penrith Panthers winger Josh Mansour admits there were tough times upon his return to the NRL Telstra Premiership but it was all worth the wait after the side's 38-0 victory over the Bulldogs on Sunday.
It was 12 months ago the 26-year-old made his State of Origin debut for NSW before suffering a ruptured ACL while in Kangaroos camp for the Four Nations tournament back in November.
Mansour's return was a timely one for the Panthers with skipper Matt Moylan's move to five-eighth adding another element to the side's new-look backline.
"The first 20 minutes was most challenging trying to get into the game and involved but I couldn't be happier with the way we finished," Mansour said after his first game back.
"All these thoughts were coming to my head, both good and bad.
"You try not to think about it but you can't help it, so I just needed a positive outlook towards the game and treat it as a normal game."
Mansour could've been forgiven for putting in a rusty performance considering it was his first match in over nine months, however the Kingsgrove junior looked sharp throughout his return.
With 180 metres from 20 runs and a late four-pointer, Mansour also set up Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary for a try midway through the second half to cap off a strong comeback.
"It was like in slow motion and weird, to be honest," he said of his first run.
"I knew as soon as I got the first run out of the way everything would fall into place.
"I just had to take the game on and not come in half-hearted.
"A few low tackles hit me but that helped my confidence."
Mansour admitted sitting on the sideline for the first three months of the Telstra Premiership was a challenge and gave an insight into what sort of mentality injured players endure away from the daily grind within the squad.
"I was pretty much training by myself everyday and am not the best spectator," he said.
"It's nice to see the boys win but it's also frustrating because you want to be apart of that winning culture.
"When you see them lose you feel helpless because you can't do much."
After returning to the training paddock a month ago and engaging in physical contact, the former Lebanese international dismissed talk of a representative return with match fitness and Penrith the main priority in his immediate playing future.
"I'm very relieved to be back and happy but can't get too carried away," Mansour said.
"With an ACL it's a minimum six months [recovery] and usually it takes around 12 to actually completely heal.
"I did everything I could to get to this point so need to keep backing myself and believing.
"Coming into the middle of a season where everyone is peaking with match fitness is going to make it slow for me but I'm happy with how we finished today."
This article first appeared on NRL.com