Patience a virtue for recovering Ballin
The biggest thing veteran Wests Tigers hooker Matt Ballin learned during his wretched 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season was patience.
Renowned as an ironman throughout the majority of his decade-long NRL career, Ballin's previous two seasons have been ruined by consecutive ACL injuries.
Ballin only played twice for his new club last year before his season ended soon after overcoming his first knee reconstruction.
The 33-year-old could only watch on as the dramas surrounding previous No.9 Robbie Farah came to a head late last season.
Following Farah's departure and club legend Dene Halatau's retirement, Ballin is now locked in a three-way battle with fellow rakes Jacob Liddle and Matt McIlwrick to replace them.
"The biggest thing I probably learned out of last year was patience in that injuries take time to heal, don't rush things and in the long run that will mean I'll be better off," Ballin told Tigers TV as part of the club's Unfiltered series.
"I played two NRL games and once in reserve grade – and I felt I contributed in those games – but obviously it wasn't enough footy. I want to be a bigger part of the team this year and play a lot more games."
Ballin hoped that despite his absence he still contributed to the team in some way last season, especially in aiding the development of young halves Mitch Moses and Luke Brooks.
"It's been an empty feeling sitting on the sidelines and not being able to help my teammates. When these things happen I suppose you learn to help them in different ways," Ballin said.
"The greatest part of the team last year was Mitch and Luke learning about their potential. It's exciting watching the younger guys being an older guy, I just hope I'm contributing something to their careers."
Ballin said his recovery was on the right track but added he is no certainty to face the Rabbitohs in Round 1.
"The knee feels really stable and at this point last year I'm now probably a couple of months ahead in my recovery," he said.
"It feels really strong at the moment in terms of my agility and in changing direction, but I haven't done much contact stuff yet with the other boys."