Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright has given returning front-rower Matthew White some sobering news: Your best may still be 12 months away.
White returned to full training with the Titans for the first time on Monday having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a trial game against the Warriors last February, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season.
While thrilled to have him back as part of his front-row rotation, Cartwright insists that the recovery process from a knee reconstruction won't be complete until the mental battle is won.
"It is harder than what it looks. You are 100 per cent fit and the knee's as strong as the other one but it becomes a bit of a mental thing and he's going to need a fair bit of football before he'll consistently play NRL," Cartwright told NRL.com.
"It can take another 12 months to get fully over it, your confidence and strength back in it, but he'll be right to go first game and looking forward to getting on the field I'm sure.
"You'd have to go through one to know what it's like. You sometimes feel that you're never going to get it right and get out of the injured squad or get out of the long hard training that you're doing, but he's as level-headed as any guy around. He's handled it probably as good as any guy I've ever seen."
Since joining the Titans from the Knights in 2009, White had established himself as a key member of the forward rotation. The 29-year-old had played 88 games in four seasons at the Titans before he was struck down by injury but has no qualms about lining up in the trials next year, targeting the Titans' first trial as his return match.
"The trials are part of the game, if you get injured you get injured, just like a normal comp game I suppose," White said.
"It was hard at the start but that's footy I suppose. I just had to get my head around it and spend a year on the sidelines which gave me a bit of a freshen-up and I'll be ready to go next year.
"Probably last season was the fittest I've been so just doing the hard yards at the moment to get back to that fitness."
With the injury to White, Cartwright's front-row rotation this year was limited to Luke Bailey, Luke Douglas, Nate Myles, Ryan James and Mark Ioane so bringing another big body into the squad is a welcome addition.
"To go a year without one of your first-string front-rowers was tough at times so we'll welcome him back; we're basically picking up a player we didn't have last year. It's a real positive for us," Cartwright said.
"History has shown that you need six or seven front-rowers so they'll all get game-time as the year unfolds.
"He's a big frame, he runs hard, he's very tough and aggressive and in a front-rower, that's all you can ask."