After injuring his shoulder late last season, young half Mason Lino thought there was no chance of being right for Round 1 after learning he needed a shoulder reconstruction.
Instead he looks set to play in the upcoming trial matches far ahead of schedule.
Lino is expecting to return to full, normal training with the squad by next week and a crack in the halves at Maitland Sportsground against the Dragons in less than a month – a reality he initially didn’t think would be possible.
Recovery Report: Lino firms for trials
“When I had the shoulder re-co, I was thinking six-eight months, but I think I’m only four and a half months gone,” Lino said.
“I’m doing a bit of contact progressions this week, hopefully in the next couple of days, heading into next week, I can transition back into the team.
“I’m really fortunate we have a good physio team here and they’ve helped me progressed really quickly.”
While the backroom staff have been kept busy with Lino’s rehab, he’s done plenty on his own as well including staying in Newcastle over the Christmas break to ensure he stayed ahead of schedule.
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His speedy recovery has come at a perfect time for the Samoan representative as he looks to challenge the other names battling it out for that five-eighth role.
There’s been plenty of noise made about who might fill that spot alongside captain Mitchell Pearce, and although Lino has been playing catch-up with the other contenders due to the injury, his focus hasn’t swayed.
“I’m really happy here and I’m happy to fight for my position,” he said.
“Kurt’s [Mann] been going really well. All I can focus on is my shoulder and getting that right and once I get back into the team I can hopefully fight for my position.
“I think at the moment I’m looking forward to the first trial, and if I go well there, I’ll go give it another shot in the second.”
On top of contending for that No.6 jersey, Lino is also looking to secure another extension on his contract that ends this season.
While some players might feel the pinch and pressure of a scenario such as his, the 25-year-old isn’t stressed.
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“I haven’t had too much thought about it,” he said.
“I guess at the moment I’m just thinking about shoulder and getting that right.
“I know if I can get that right and get my fitness and a few other things right, I can put my best foot forward and everything will look after itself.”