Giant Saints prop Alex Walmsley has revealed how, despite making great strides in the red vee last season, he was hampered by a nagging hip injury.
The 24-year-old required an operation to fix a “bone issue” following Saints’ Grand Final success, but has now been given the green light to resume training and playing.
He said: “They can be quite lonely days in rehab - you’re always the first in and last out - but I’m settling back into team training now and everyone is looking really sharp.
“I was unable to train as much as I wanted to last year - the coaches had to monitor my training to help me get through to the end of the year - and my fitness deteriorated a bit towards the back end of last year, which was frustrating. It was better than not being able to play at all though.
“Dealing with injuries is part and parcel of rugby league though and it’s making me look forward to the season even more. I bet 99 per cent of Super League players will have played on with an injury at some point last year.
“I just need to get some metres into my legs now. It might take me two or three weeks to get up to full speed.”
Walmsley, who at 18 stone and 6ft 5ins tall is second only to man-mountain Mose Masoe in the fearsome Saints pack, told how he was keen to repay new head coach Keiron Cunningham.
Cunningham was instrumental in bringing Walmsley to Langtree Park from Batley Bulldogs in 2013.
“Kez has been great with me since day one,” he said.
“He’s always given me a lot of time and I’m very grateful for that. He’s a quality coach and all the boys were chuffed when he accepted the job. He’s a legend here - this is where he belongs.
“Kez has added a few little things of his own in pre-season already and Longy’s come up with a few new ideas too.”
Walmsley, who has already forged a reputation as an impact forward, hopes to spend even longer on the field this year.
He added: “As good as it is to be an impact forward I would much rather play longer minutes. Kyle Amor can do 25-30 minutes stints and they are the sort of levels I’d love to get to.
“I may not be as prolific as Kyle is though. He’s a Cumbrian and he’s a bit of a freak!”