Sharks star happy to be back
You get a sense that experienced Cronulla Sharks back-rower Anthony Tupou has missed his football in 2014.
Not because of the pain suffered from his knee injury that kept him out for the first seven weeks of the season nor because he didn't get a chance to throw his hat into the ring for the upcoming representative round, but because he's missed playing with his mates.
While the former New South Wales and Australian representative's return to the Sharks was a timely one considering their 24-20 win over the Penrith Panthers was just their club's second of season, Tupou is simply happy to be moving forward from his recent setbacks and help out those who stand by him year-in, year-out.
"That's the hardest part when you're watching [from the sidelines]. When you're doing all the training and you don't get to take it out on the field it's very hard to watch when your side's not going so good," Tupou told NRL.com.
"I just wanted to get out there and do my bit for the team but I couldn't. It's frustrating.
"You can't rush these things though. It does make you want to get out there quicker and make you want to cut a few weeks off your comeback time but you just can't do it so you just have to sit there and watch."
Let's not dwell on the past though, because Tupou returned with a vengeance on Saturday night. His 107 metres and 27 tackles are a testament to the impact that the 30 year-old had on the game, regardless of the anxiety involved when realising he lacked the required match fitness.
"I'm feeling pretty good. I'm just happy to get the win; it was a good time to come back," Tupou said.
"'Sharpy' (Sharks coach Peter Sharp) said, 'I'm not going to name you but if you pop up, you pop up and you're in' so I knew I was right and I knew I'd be starting if I was named so in the back of my mind I was worried about fitness.
"I thought it wasn't going the way I wanted to at the start – I blew out pretty early so I was thinking, What have I got myself into? But then I got my second wind and finally got into the game and it felt all right.
"You can't get match fitness without playing. I knew I had done as much training as I could but I was always going to be stuffed."
Although he may have ran out of puff by the time the siren sounded, Tupou's focus remains on his mates in the black, white and blue and his belief that the Sharks can make something of their season is an admirable thing consider their two-from-eight start to the year.
"I've just come in at the right time," Tupou exclaimed.
"We just have to keep turning up like [we did] every week now. We have to get through the representative period with a few boys gone but hopefully we can get through it pretty strong and then in the back end of the year just keep getting better and better and progress."
No matter how much his knee pains him or the match fitness he is short of, Tupou will now sleep easy for the week knowing he has a full week to recover.
It would be remiss of anyone not to think of the prospects he presents for Cronulla now as he continues his way back to the damaging forward we've seen over the past decade.