Fitzgibbon: 'It feels like an eternity on the sideline'
Saturday will make it a long five weeks watching on from the sidelines for Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
The handy forward copped a two-match ban for a dangerous contact in the nib Newcastle Knights' loss to the Melbourne Storm in Round 15.
While Fitzgibbon served his two matches, he also sat through rep round and a bye round for the Club before finally he's ready to take the field against the Gold Coast Titans this weekend.
The 24-year-old admits it's almost been like a mini pre-season.
"The boys have only played two games, but it feels like an eternity, so I can't wait to get out there on Saturday," Fitzgibbon commented.
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"It's been a big couple of weeks, but I am feeling fit and healthy, pretty strong at the moment, so I will see how that holds on Saturday."
In unfamiliar territory, the try-scoring forward will look to start on the bench.
But Fitzgibbon isn't too phased with where he'll be come the starting siren
"Wherever Browny (Nathan Brown) sees fit for me to play this weekend, I will play whether that is off the bench or starting on the weekend," he said.
His absence was beneficially for one young forward.
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It gave Sam Stone a chance to play his first NRL game for this season.
"With any one injury, it opens the door for any player. I got my chance through injury last year and ended up not looking back and finishing up the last 15 weeks in the starting side," Fitzgibbon added.
"It was a good opportunity for (Sam) Stoney and likewise for Aidan (Guerra) to go back to the back row, and for the other boys to then start up front, but I am glad I'm back."
Last time the Knights met the Titans, in Round 11, it was a disappointing end to a match Newcastle could have won.
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They started strongly but lapses at the back end of the match led to a seven-point deficit.
"We scored a couple of tries, fought back and had control for most of that game, but they managed to do a number on us which was very disappointing," he said.
"It's not as if we owe them one, I don't think there's extra motivation in what happened last time.
"It's just another week, another game and we should go out and perform strongly and hopefully win."
With just seven games left on the calendar, reaching the finals isn't impossible.
The Knights forward maintains while it may be at the back of some players' minds, ultimately, they need to focus winning game to game.
"Our goal is to win as many as we can, and whatever happens in the eight, it's really up to them above us," stated Fitzgibbon.
"We need to try and make a little run towards the semis and if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn't, we've got something to build on for next year.
"At this stage it's just about playing footy, we haven't spoken about playing finals."