He is a veteran of 190 NRL games, but Titans forward Anthony Laffranchi feels like a kid about to play his first after an offseason plagued by reconstructions and reoccurring injuries.
The representative forward underwent shoulder and wrist operations in the off-season and was set for his comeback before straining his hamstring in the preseason, forcing him to miss the first two rounds of the competition.
The Murwillumbah Colts junior is itching to get back on the field and take on the Broncos at Skilled Park.
“It’s been a bit of a long road since my last game, the rehab seemed like it would never end,” Laffranchi told NRL.com.
“It’s great to be back on the paddock, mentally it feels like one of my first games, I’m a little kid jumping out of my skin.”
Missing games is a big deal for Laffranchi. After more than a decade in the top-grade he can’t remember needing surgery or missing extended periods of footy.
“I’ve been playing for 11 years and haven’t had to have an off-season surgery in that time,” he said.
“It has been tough, I didn’t train with the squad until about a month ago. I’ve been in and out with rehab and have been very limited in what I could do with my wrist and shoulder.
“I had been doing a lot of running and then the hamstring didn’t allow me to do much of that either, it was definitely tough.
“I hated missing training and hated missing games even more.”
After a frustrating stop-start offseason plagued by injury, Laffranchi was named in the second row to take on the Broncos, and there is no doubt in his mind that his body is ready.
“I’m totally confident in the injuries and I’ve done plenty of testing on them in the last month,” Laffranchi said.
“The last couple of weeks back at full training have been great, if anything I’ve been training too hard and getting a bit too eager to hit the boys at training, they are probably filthy at me,” he laughs.
“There is no doubt the hamstring strain put me back a couple of weeks, but in hindsight it could have been a blessing in disguise because it has given the wrist and shoulder more time for healing.
“I am a lot more refreshed both mentally and physically.”
Laffranchi returns to a Titans side desperate for victory after first-up losses to the Dragons and an embarrassing capitulation to the Melbourne Storm last week.
Coach John Cartwright has rung in several changes for the blockbuster clash; Mark Minichiello returns to partner Laffranchi in the second row, Bodene Thompson moves to the centres and Greg Bird has shifted to five-eighth.
According to Laffranchi, morale at the club is good and they are set for a big performance on Friday night.
“The beauty of it is the short week, we don’t have time to dwell on last week’s result – everyone is really positive and looking forward to the blockbuster local derby,” he said.
“It is a very important game for us, we need to get off the mark and kick-start our 2011 campaign.
“Birdie moves back to six, which is good. It’s disappointing for the guys missing out, but it’s a long year and guys like Luke Capewell will have a chance to fight their way back into the team which is healthy competition to have at a club.
“The clash with Broncos is big, it’s up there with the bigger games in the competition. It goes back to when we came into the competition, but also when we had that home semi-final against the Broncos, we always seem to be playing important games against them.
“You always look for it on the calendar and I can’t wait.
“Hopefully we get a massive crowd to cheer us home, there is nothing better when we fill the stadium and you see a sea of turquoise blue, it really lifts the team and it shouldn’t be a problem this week with the two local teams.”