Heading into his second year at Parramatta, prop Danny Wicks is hoping a shoulder cleanout will have him in even better shape than he was when he joined the club ahead of the 2015 season.
Having missed five seasons following drug trafficking charges, the former Dragon and Knight's trimmed-down frame helped him to an impressive NRL comeback in 2015 before a shoulder injury ended his season in Round 19 after 16 appearances.
Wicks told NRL.com he'd be ready to resume contact work when the side returns after the Christmas break having been hampered throughout 2015.
"Yeah it's going really well actually. Everything's on schedule," he said.
On the nature of the injury, Wicks said his supraspinatus – which is a rotator cuff muscle that attaches to the shoulder blade and the humerus – came off the bone.
"I don't know much about shoulders but apparently that's not a real good thing," he said.
"By all accounts from what I've been told and how it's feeling I'd say it's going to be better than what it was, fingers crossed."
Reflecting on his NRL comeback, Wicks was pretty happy with his efforts but more "stoked just to get a start".
With more players competing for spots in the pack in 2016, his immediate goal is just to get back into first grade.
"[My goals are] just to work on little aspects here and there, work a bit more on the fitness and all the other things that come with rugby league. Five years out, I had to work on my timing and all that sort of stuff [last season]. I've ironed all that out so I've got no more excuses."
Wicks was also happy with his fitness after a month and a half of gruelling pre-season drills under the Eels performance coaches.
"But everyone feels pretty fit six weeks into pre-season. Mid-season is where it's at and being fit isn't necessarily being able to run the field it's turning up every week for nine months. That will be the goal," he said.
Wicks said the forward pack overall – with youngsters like Tepai Moeroa and Pauli Pauli having another year of experience, the addition of Beau Scott and with himself and Anthony Watmough returning from injury – is looking very promising.
"The younger guys last year, a lot of people forget that a lot of our forwards didn't even have 50 games under their belt," he said.
"Obviously they're only young bucks and they've got to get better. With experience comes a bit of wisdom and all the rest of it. They're big powerful kids, they're scary."