Johnathan Thurston has returned to training for the 2018 pre-season, and the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys co-captain is wasting no time getting back into it after so much time out of the game.
It comes after a season-ending shoulder injury the playmaker sustained in State of Origin II, which forced him to miss the Cowboys' charge to the grand final where they were beaten by the Melbourne Storm.
"It's nice to be back, that's for sure, I had a busy off-season so it's good to be back around the boys and I've got four weeks of hard work now before Christmas," Thurston said.
"It's been a busy break, obviously with the shoulder as well I was doing a lot of travelling as well so it's nice now that the shoulder is just about fully healed, I've got full range in it and it's just about getting strength back into it and I can do that… over the next four weeks."
With his time on the sidelines Thurston has had ample opportunity to examine the Cowboys squad, and he's happy with the results.
Even with the most senior players not returning for another week, and three international representatives playing for Australia and New Zealand in the World Cup, the Cowboys have a squad that includes the likes of Coen Hess and Kyle Feldt.
"It's a strong squad, one of the strongest that we've ever had so it's a good sign, in the next four weeks before Christmas everyone needs to work hard and that's what we're trying to do," the playmaker said.
"I'm just enjoying being around the playing group and around the staff and making sure we're still driving the high standards that we've set over the last couple of seasons.
"I'm looking forward to training with the boys, I haven't done a pre-season in a while, so to be back and fresh… it's good times ahead."
Cowboys coach Paul Green is also pleased with how his players have returned to training, and was satisfied that they'd had a long enough break since their loss to the Storm.
"The boys have come back in pretty good shape… the boys know what's expected and I think they've learnt the hard way that if they do come back in [a bad state] that there's nothing but a bit of pain for them in the few weeks leading into Christmas," Green said.
"I'm really keen to get into it next year. [It was a] great finish to the year for us and hopefully that will be a springboard for us into next year but I think the boys are aware that it doesn't mean anything for next year.
"We all start on zero points, I know it's a cliché but it's true so we've got a bit of hard work ahead of us, especially over the next month or so and then that month or so after Christmas we've got to put some good work in the bank."
First published on NRL.com.