Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote has admitted to battling rehabilitation demons ahead of his first NRL Telstra Premiership game in 18 months, seeking the sage advice of former Cowboy Brent Tate to help better cope with the time away from footy.
Tate was one of the NRL's hard luck stories spanning a decade before deciding to retire midway through last year after a fourth knee reconstruction.
He forged a successful representative career despite suffering an ongoing neck injury, multiple knee injuries, a broken jaw and a busted shoulder; and it helped put things into perspective for Coote.
Another league hard luck story, Coote had his left knee give way on day one of last year's inaugural Auckland Nines competition, and he said Tate has been good counsel ever since.
"Especially Tatey being around [has helped]. [Last year] was his fourth knee reconstruction and I've had a bit of a chat from him," Coote said.
"I was struggling at one [operation], but just looking at him going through that has motivated me to get back just after one."
Coote is approaching his return with zeal, saying he feels like he is "making my [NRL] debut all over again", but is making no promises about his own match fitness.
Despite last week's Intrust Super Cup game being cancelled due to a cyclone, Coote is happy with his preparation and level of fitness, but is aware he may be feeling it early on the big stage against the Broncos.
"Obviously I'm going to be blowing early. The lungs are going to be hurting. [I've] just got to get back to the grind of things and all I'm going to be focused on is getting back to my best and work on the combinations with Michael Morgan and Johnathan Thurston," he said.
"I feel like I've done the training and I'm ready to go, but that's part of NRL, there's no hiding out there. It's going to be a challenge and hopefully I'm up for it."
With the Cowboys desperately needing some attacking spark after scoring just three tries in two games, Coote is eager to help out close to the line.
"Hopefully [I add some] high energy. I'm usually a bouncy sort of player and getting around, supportive, if I'm not blowing too much," he said.
"It's going to be nerve-wracking. I've done my time, I've trained. I was sort of coming in at the back end of last season and being ready to play if anyone went down injured in the finals. I've played the three trials and I've played a Q-Cup game so I'm happy with my confidence.
"I'm hoping I've moved on and hopefully everything goes well, and a bit of luck goes my way."