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He admits there will be butterflies in his stomach as he laces up his boots deep in ANZ Stadium on Friday night but Broncos centre Dale Copley is adamant the knee injury that ruined his 2013 season will be the furthest thing from his mind.
Copley plays his first NRL game since Week One of the 2012 Finals Series when the Broncos open their season against the Bulldogs and does so in his favoured position of centre. It's an opportunity that has presented itself due to the achilles injury suffered by Justin Hodges towards the end of the 2013 season and one he is eager to take advantage of.
The part-time law student says his right knee is getting better every day to the point where the thought of it buckling on him again doesn’t cross his mind, taking any nervousness or apprehension out of play as he prepares himself for a return to the NRL arena.
“There are always nerves about playing footy, but there won’t be any nerves about the injury,” Copley assured NRL.com ahead of the Friday night blockbuster.
Although he invested heavily in recruiting outside backs during the off-season, Broncos coach Anthony Griffin has spoken about Copley as the forgotten man of the Brisbane squad and is delighted to have him available for selection again.
“It’s great to have him back, he’s a player with untapped potential,” Griffin said.
“The fact that he played a lot of minutes in all three trials will give him some confidence.
“We haven’t got any massive areas or expectations that we want him to take care of, we’re just happy to see him back out playing football."
Although it would appear to be a temporary posting at right centre until Hodges is fit to return, Copley is determined to use the start of the season to press his claims for a permanent position, starting with a good showing against Bulldogs Test star Josh Morris.
In his 38 top-grade appearances since 2009 Copley has played in the centres on four occasions and crossed for four tries and is eager to test himself against Morris in front of what should be a hostile Bulldogs crowd.
“I’ve played against [Morris] before [but] I’ve never marked him so obviously it’s a pretty tough challenge first-up but I’m sure I’ll be right," the 22-year-old said.
“Obviously we’ve still got ‘Hodgey’ coming back but I’ll do my best to play as well as I can and contribute to the team.
“Hopefully we get a few wins over the period he’s out and we’ll see what happens from there.”
The absence of Hodges allows a healthy competition and rivalry between Copley and fellow centre Jack Reed for a place in the starting side once the Test and Origin veteran returns from injury, which is expected to be at least another six weeks away.
“That [rivalry] will obviously push Jack to play well and it will make me play well as well,” Copley admitted.
“That’s what you want in a footy team. You don’t want anyone getting complacent.”