Road to recovery complete for Sea Eagles duo
For some the Auckland Nines is a bit of fun or a chance for the game's young and brightest stars to show their worth, but for Sea Eagles duo Jamie Buhrer and Brenton Lawrence it will mean a whole lot more.
It's been almost a year since Lawrence was sighted in the NRL, when a back injury ended his year before it even got off the ground. While Buhrer's second ACL tear in consecutive seasons ended his campaign not long afterwards.
Both are excited to be heading over to New Zealand, their return ends an exodus where they watched from the sidelines as the Sea Eagles missed the top eight for the first time since 2004.
"I've been in full contact for about three months now. I've passed all the tests and I'm ready to play some footy. It's awesome to be back again, to be back in and amongst it with the boys is a really good feeling," Buhrer said.
"It can get really lonely in rehab so it's really good to be back. It was probably one of the toughest periods of my career, not only with my injury but seeing the struggles we had on the field and not being able to do anything. Thankfully that's behind me now."
Lawrence added: "I feel a lot better than I did this time last year. Truth be told I was going into Round 1 not ready for the season and that showed, I ended up having surgery so that being 12 months ago I feel a lot better now.
"I've done a lot of recovery and rehabilitation, prior to that the worst injury I've had was [a busted] ankle and missed six weeks. So to miss the season, it was hard to watch because it was hard to not contribute."
Buhrer , having played 100-plus games for Manly, admitted life under new coach Trent Barrett was different but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
With Dylan Walker, Martin Taupau, Nate Myles and Lewis Brown amongst a host of recruits to join the club for the 2016 season, Buhrer believes the Sea Eagles are as settled as anyone else.
"I can't fault Trent. The staff has come in and done an amazing job from day one, they're all on the same page. Obviously you can tell they had a long time to plan out what they were going to do here and they have come in with all guns blazing," Buhrer said.
"It's definitely a different feel now, a different look. As a club we haven't had a turnover like this in a long time, that's been well-documented, but having said that everything is going well from a football perspective and even off the field."
Meanwhile Lawrence refused to comment on a rumoured move to the Sydney Roosters for the upcoming season, maintaining his focus was on the Nines.
"I won't talk about [the Roosters move], I'm here and I'm playing Nines this weekend and all of that stuff tends to take care of itself, it's not really important," Lawrence said.
"I haven't been able to play [at the Nines] previously so I'm happy to head over and run around. It's an expansive style of football and the way the guys play anything could happen.
"We were just talking about that on an error we get a free play so I'm hoping that one comes up for me and I'll get to have a crack at a chip-and-chase."