After playing the first six weeks of the 2014 season, St George Illawarra's Dylan Farrell looked destined to play regular NRL football after an inconsistent four years at South Sydney.
Building towards a promising year, the centre's season quickly turned sour when a series of pectoral injuries rubbed him out for most of 2014.
After initially rupturing his pectoral against Melbourne in Round 6, Farrell would return to football for the Illawarra Cutters three months later. In just his third game back, an awkward tackle in the final minutes of a game against Wentworthville would see his other pectoral rupture, promptly ending his season.
Labeling it a "long and tiring" mental game, Farrell said his injuries last year took him to some pretty dark places, especially when it came to his second stint in rehab within four months.
"These were definitely the hardest injuries to deal with because obviously I missed the season," Farrell told NRL.com.
"It definitely was as big a mental challenge as it was physical. With the first rupture I knew I was going to be back before the end of the season. I could work around that because I had something to work towards.
"But as soon as I did the other one, I just shutdown mentally. I didn't really see the point of coming to training and it wasn't the best place to be, but now that I'm back into it I'm happy."
Adding insult to injury was the fact his former Rabbitohs club won their first premiership in 43 years.
After four seasons and 70 first grade games at Souths and an injury ravaged 2014 season to boot, Farrell labeled their grand final victory as bittersweet.
"I actually went to the grand final. I've still got some of my best mates playing there, which was really good to see in that sense," Farrell said.
"Inside deep down though, I played there for six years, so there was a little bit of disappointment that I wasn't a part of it."
For now though Farrell is stoked to be away from the rehab room and back on the training paddock with his teammates.
Returning to full time training in the few remaining weeks of pre-season heading into the Dragons' Christmas break, the 23-year-old is taking nothing for granted.
While Brett Morris has departed, the likes of Josh Dugan, Charly Runciman, Peter Mata'utia and new recruits Eto Nabuli and Dane Nielsen mean Farrell has his work cut out for him if he is to return to the NRL.
Despite realising the tough road ahead, Farrell added he saw the positives in having competition for backline spots.
"I've never once gone into a pre-season expecting to be in the team or anything like that. I've always made sure I've worked hard for it and that'll continue for the remainder of my career," Farrell said.
"Everybody has to work hard. You could be the best player in the world but if you don't put in the hard yards then Mary's not going to pick you to play.
"This year there [are plenty of players] trying to get a spot... which is really good for the club. The harder I train the more I make them work, and they're only going to make me work harder too so it is a good place to be."