It’s early morning in mid-April, foggy and cold and Clint Newton is hard at work on the training paddock at Knights HQ.
Accompanied only by a trainer intently watching his every move, Newton repeatedly completes 50-metre shuttle runs for a solid hour in a bid to return from a ruptured bicep he suffered in a trial in February.
Welcome to the world of rehabilitation, the arduous and often lonely process professional footballers undertake to come back from injury.
For Newton, a bloke in his 14th season in the NRL, his recovery in the past three months has been made more difficult given his age.
No longer the fresh-faced rookie who first graced the field for the Knights back in 2001, the American-born forward could feel every one of his years with each stride he took on the training paddock.
“Oh I could definitely hear those demons,” Newton recalls with a shake of the head.
"But that’s all part and parcel with all the head noise that you face when you’re coming back from injury.
"It’s all part of being a rugby league player and a professional, you’ve just got to get up, get out there and get into it."
Sure, Newton had some dark days but he pushed through the pain fuelled by the doubters.
You see, at 32 the general consensus was he had little chance of hitting back from such a career-threaning injury.
It was a train of thought backed up by the headline in the local paper, 'Newton’s comeback may be over already’, after the veteran forward ruptured his bicep playing in a NSW Cup trial against Mounties.
There's no doubting the recovery process would be difficult but the scribes didn't understand the determination driving Newton.
"I found it quite surprising that a lot of people said, ‘why would you bother coming back?’," he says.
"I was like, 'well this is my job and this is what I’m here to do'.
"It was just one of those things where I couldn’t understand the defeated attitude that some people had.
"Money wasn’t even a consideration for me at that point. It was about what I love to do and I love playing footy and I wanted to help the club's younger players.
"That's why I came back to the Knights to help out, that was my motivation."
It's a goal that's become reality thanks to the help of Melbourne-based surgeon Dr.Greg Hoy, a man widely regarded as the best surgeon in the business for upper limbs.
With the guidance of Hoy, Newton received the surgery that's set him on course for a comeback weeks ahead of schedule.
"Greg was tremendous and he fit me in straight away," he enthuses.
"I remember the boys down at Melbourne (Storm) talking about him too and he had a lot of big raps there too.
"I also got some really good raps from Adam Freier, the rugby union hooker.
"Beau Faloon from Queensland also gave me some good positive feedback about the surgery and a couple of other AFL players down there that had been to Greg and they couldn’t rap him up enough.
"So he was great and very aggressive with his rehab and surgery, now I’m really looking forward to getting back and playing."
On top of the expert help from Hoy, Newton also credits the Club's training staff for their countless hours in helping him on the road to recovery.
"The rehab and training staff here at the Knights have been fantastic," he enthuses.
"I honestly would doubt if I was at another club whether I would be back this quickly.
"I feel like I’m ready to go. They’ve done everything right by me and they haven’t left me alone, which is good because sometimes in rehab it can be quite a lonely place."
Newton will make his comeback in the NSW Cup ranks today when the Knights take on the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.
After so many weeks on the sidelines, the four-club journeyman can't wait to take the field again.
"I couldn’t be happier," he grins.
"It’s been back-to-back pre-seasons for me, so 12 weeks of training, injury and another 12 weeks of training.
"So I’m just rapt to be back and officially playing in a game that matters, where there are points on the line for the red and blue.
"Forget about the grade I’m playing, I’m here to do a job and to get another opportunity to play in the red and blue.
"And what better way to test myself then to go over and play the big boys from New Zealand and rip in."