Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott is targeting the World Club Challenge in England on February 21 and after undergoing successful off-season neck surgery is convinced he will take the field in a bid to help his side be crowned world champions.
Scott and the members of the premiership-winning Cowboys team began the defence of their title with day one of pre-season on training on Monday with much the same squad that edged out the Broncos in the epic Telstra Premiership grand final on October 4.
It was something of a low-key start for the North Queensland front-rower who will seek counsel with his surgeon and the club's medical staff about the possibility of returning to full training earlier than expected ahead of their clash with Leeds at famed Headingley in February.
The 30-year-old battled through with the neck injury for much of the Cowboys' historic season but said the results of the surgery were as instant as they were unexpected.
"It was instant relief. The difference between before and after the surgery was amazing," Scott said on Monday. "I didn't realise it would be so much relief so quick.
"All the pain out of my arms was gone, the pins and needles in my fingers and forearm was all gone so very excited about not having to deal with that.
"Hopefully the surgery lasts and gets me through the rest of my career.
"I saw 'Jimmy' (Cowboys teammate James Tamou) go through the same thing and noticed how he came back and I'm pretty confident that I'm ahead of schedule and feeling really good because of it.
"I definitely want to play [in the World Club Challenge] and I think it will be more than fine.
"After Christmas I aim to be back into full training. Contact might have to be modified just a little bit early on but definitely can't see why I wouldn't be right to play."
Given he played in 25 of the Cowboys' 28 games along with three Origin matches for Queensland and the mid-year Test against New Zealand, Scott is in a strong position to evaluate the toll being taken on players' bodies.
A reduction in the number of interchanges from 10 per game down to eight will likely translate into more minutes for the big men and make recovery an even greater focus than it already is.
Clubs such as Manly and the Roosters have expressed concerns about the number of five-day turnarounds ahead of them in 2016 and Scott was emphatic about the importance of the issue to the NRL elite.
"It's disappointing that we didn't see a bit more of an effort to change that," Scott said of the five-day turnarounds which the NRL has vowed to reduce in 2017 when Monday Night Football goes by the wayside.
"I know the NRL are restricted there with the broadcast rights but obviously it is a big issue for the players and the Players Association (RLPA) have been pretty vocal in saying that's one area we'd like to see improved on.
"I haven't had a close look on what we've got to deal with but I think five-day turnarounds are unreasonable to ask players to have to back up like that.
"We've lessened the interchange so there's going to be a bigger toll on our bodies.
"There's a lot of talk about player welfare but I don't think it's being taken seriously at the moment."