McGuire ready for NRL return
Brisbane prop Josh McGuire is eager to return to the playing field after an extended break from the game due to a severe Achilles injury.
Thursday night's 2016 NRL season opener between the Broncos and the Eels will be McGuire's first NRL game since rupturing his Achilles almost nine months ago.
The costly injury occurred in Brisbane's Round 16 clash against Newcastle and McGuire was sorely missed during the Broncos' run to the grand final.
2015 was shaping as McGuire's best year as he made his long awaited State of Origin debut for Queensland.
Playing in the opening two games of the series, McGuire was set to feature in the third and deciding fixture before his season was cruelly cut short.
McGuire has used the break from the game to recuperate - the 25-year-old is now noticeably leaner, something that should work in his advantage with the interchange reduced to eight per game.
McGuire admits it was hard to watch his teammates fall agonisingly short in the 2015 decider as he sat on the sidelines, and is hopeful he can inspire Brisbane to go one better in 2016.
"Yeah I'm pretty excited. It will be good to be back. It was a long year last year so I'm looking forward to the new year," McGuire said.
"It's always your dream to play in a grand final. I love the club and the club got there last year. It was hard watching my mates go through what they had to go through. It's a new year and I never want to go through that again.
"I'm hitting all my goals that I hit last year. I feel just as fit and I haven't lost any speed. I'm expecting to play some good footy this year.
"It's the fittest I've ever been. I'm a bit lighter and it's the strongest I've ever been in the gym, which is good. I'm just excited for the year. The injury has almost been a blessing in disguise to help my body recover.
"I'm about 103-104kg at the moment. I've dropped a few kilograms. Last year I was sitting at around 106-107kg as my playing weight. I'm feeling pretty good."
Parramatta will be a tough first assignment for Brisbane as the Eels look to make Pirtek Stadium a fortress in 2016.
The Eels have recruited strongly over the off-season, with the likes of Kieran Foran, Michael Jennings, Beau Scott and Michael Gordon joining the club.
McGuire is wary of the physicality a large Parramatta forward pack will bring, suggesting that the Eels backline will thrive off the back of the big boys in the middle of the park.
"It will be a very physical game. They've always played physical. I'm expecting a lot more polish now with Foran and [Corey] Norman in the halves," he said.
"They are coming off some great success in the Auckland Nines. We're expecting a great challenge.
"They will be a top team this year. They have a great roster. It will be a good test for us to start the year off."