Reuben Cotter knows all too well how injuries can affect a season but the Cowboys utility hopes the club's difficult 2021 campaign, which included several setbacks, is quickly put behind them.
The Cowboys returned to pre-season training on Friday with Cotter one of many eager to get back on the field to help propel the side to greater heights in 2022 after another difficult year of results.
Michael Morgan's retirement in April and Jake Clifford's mid-season departure caused some disruption to the side while injuries to key players also hurt their momentum throughout the year.
"It wasn't the season we wanted to produce this year and the last couple of years have been similar in that regard," Cotter told NRL.com.
"We had a few injuries and weren't playing the consistent footy we wanted to.
"We'd trained all season with Morgs [Morgan] and Cliffy [Clifford] in the halves and then they're both gone. It's hard to build any momentum and play good footy.
"It's definitely not an excuse because we have a lot to improve but we have a base to build on now.
"Especially with the new players coming on board with the likes of Chad Townsend and Peta Hiku, I'm looking forward to a long pre-season together."
Cotter is particularly excited for the arrival of Townsend, who went straight to Townsville after his brief stint at the Warriors finished in September.
"He got in a couple of weeks ago and I've been doing a couple of gym sessions with him, he seems very driven and that's refreshing, you want your halves to be like that," Cotter said.
"I'm excited to get to know him more and train with him. I think he'll be very good for us, he'll be that experienced player and it should suit Tommy [Dearden] and Drinky [Scott Drinkwater] in the halves.
"Hopefully we have some stability in the spine next year and we can go into the season ready to play some footy."
After rupturing his ACL twice as a teenager in 2017 and 2018, Cotter copped more bad luck in 2021 with a lisfranc injury sidelining him for the majority of the year.
He returned to the paddock in round 23 before missing the final round of the season with a minor shoulder issue.
"The foot was a different injury, I didn't know much about it until it happened or what it was," he said.
"I felt like I had a constructive pre-season last year so it was a bummer. I just want an injury-free season next year.
"I've been trying to stay as healthy as I can be and take it easy on the body with a bit of swimming."
Cotter said he wanted to remain focused on developing in his role at lock next season after coming through the Cowboys system as a hooker.
"It's a more simplified role than playing in the nine jersey and I enjoyed that challenge and will look to play that role again next year, wherever the team needs me to play," he said.
"That smaller bloke in the middle has become a lot more important now with the speed of the game.
"It's a good thing for me and something I'd like to work on in the pre-season."