Jetstar Gold Coast Titans marathon man Nathan Friend has set his sights on an April return to the NRL as he continues his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.

The Jetstar Titans tackling machine has not missed a club match for the Gold Coast since 2008 but is likely to be forced out of the opening few rounds of the 2011 season after electing to rectify a shoulder problem he carried during the club’s 2010 campaign.

But with Friend already making positive steps on his road to recovery during the pre-season, the 29-year-old is hopeful of missing as little game time as possible.

“It’ll be around April some time. In early March I’ll see the specialist and we’ll have a scan and know more from there,’’ said Friend.

“I am only aided by how I feel and it feels pretty good at the moment so I can only push it as far as it tells me.

“I have to wait for all the screws to take and the bones to heal so that’s why we’ll have a scan and if it has healed then who knows, we could be back a little earlier.’’

With Friend doubtful for the club’s opening round blockbuster against premiers the St George Illawarra Dragons at Skilled Park on Saturday, March 12, Jetstar Titans coach John Cartwright has several replacement options at his disposal including utility Riley Brown, Tweed Heads junior Kayne Lawton and last year’s NYC hooker Matt Srama.

Lawton is also on the comeback trail after undergoing a shoulder operation last year while Anthony Laffranchi (shoulder and wrist) and Brad Myers (wrist) are also in the club’s rehabilitation group.