Bulldogs forward Pat O'Hanlon (pictured in 2014) hopes to return to first grade in 2016 after injury wrecked his 2015 season.

Bulldogs' forgotten man targets 2016 return

You might not have heard the name Pat O'Hanlon in a while. 

16 months after suffering a compound fracture of his tibia, a shattered fibula and a dislocated and broken ankle, O'Hanlon is headed for a huge year in part to repay the faith shown to him by coach Des Hasler.

No stranger to the NRL having played 32 games previously, O'Hanlon is determined to ensure the 2014 elimination final in Melbourne – where he suffered his horrific injuries –won't be his last.

Though he's not against flying under the radar for now, the 24-year-old has been afforded the opportunity to play the game he loves once again with Hasler re-signing him for a further season.

"It's basically sink or swim now," O'Hanlon told NRL.com.

"I've been put in a great position by Des; he's shown a lot of faith in me. To re-sign me, he didn't have to do that, so now I'm just going to go out there with the mindset of trying to repay him and the club as a whole. 

"I'm not too fussed whether or not people know who I am – just as long as I'm back playing good footy and contributing to the team and the organisation. I'll be happy if I can achieve that."

After spending almost a year on the sideline before making his comeback in the Bulldogs' final few games of the NSW Cup season last year, the Mackay Brothers junior is undoubtedly hungry for what's to come.

Missing the Bulldogs' run to the grand final in 2014 following his sickening injury, O'Hanlon also lost all career momentum after spending the past three years before that on the fringes at the Eels.

"The timing couldn't have been any worse, and for the boys to go on that run to the grand final made it a bit tougher to sit and watch on the sidelines," O'Hanlon said.

"I was happy for the club to get to where they did but it would've been a lot sweeter being able to be out there with them. I guess that's where I want to get back to. 

"I've always got that driving force there now to try and get back to where I was and hopefully play in a grand final with the boys one day." 

O'Hanlon also extended his praise for the faith Hasler's support staff has shown in him ever since the incident occurred, in what was a relatively innocuous tackle. 

"James Rahme our physio was always looking after me injury-wise while others like Harry Harris and Tony Grimaldi were always adjusting my training accordingly to how I was feeling mentally and physically," O'Hanlon said.

"If they saw I was doing it a bit tough they'd tell me to take off.

"Then also I was pretty well looked after by my girlfriend's mum for the year which was pretty nice. So I definitely had a good network of support there over the past year and a bit and I'm very thankful for that."

Now with his injury woes behind him, O'Hanlon is grateful for the contrast of pre-seasons the past 12 months has brought.

Resigned to training on his own this time a year ago, O'Hanlon is revelling being beside his teammates once again. 

"No footballer wants to be in the position I was in but those were the cards I was dealt. I haven't missed any sessions really either which is a good sign for the leg," O'Hanlon said.

"This time last year I was training by myself, lifting upper-body weights and to see how far I've come in a year is pretty positive for myself and I'm pretty happy to be back on track. 

"It's always good to be out there with the boys and be out there competing every day and doing all the team drills rather than being by yourself obviously." 

Video first featured at bulldogs.com.au