Roosters wrecking ball Sio Siua Taukeiaho says he still gets scared at the thought of defenders diving at his knees after having an ACL reconstruction at the end of 2016.
Five months and 16 NRL games into his comeback from the nasty injury that ended his 2016 campaign early, ruined his 2017 off-season and delayed his return to the field until Round 7 this year, Taukeiaho has provided an insight into not just the struggles of rehabilitating such an injury but the mental demons that can take longer to shake.
It is a timely reminder; Cowboys rival Matt Scott was this week a surprise inclusion on the North Queensland bench for his team's preliminary final against Taukeiaho's Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night in what would be his first game back from a similar injury suffered in Round 2 this year.
The New Zealand World Cup hopeful admits the injury still plays on his mind during games.
"It's been tough coming back from an ACL injury. I'm still not fully confident, still not 100 per cent," Taukeiaho told NRL.com this week.
"When I get into contact, when I start running the ball, I still get scared of people diving at my leg or my knee.
"There are times you see a hole and you can run straight through it but you're scared someone might come flying at your knee in that time so it kind of pulls you back.
"It's something that will take time. In saying that our season finishes up real soon so I get to hopefully have a break and build my confidence back up for next year but we also have World Cup coming up."
Things have improved, though. Taukeiaho's has been in strong form of late and his best game of the season last time the Roosters faced the Cowboys. In Round 21 he smashed his way to personal season-highs in tackle busts (seven) and run metres (214), scoring his only try of the year as the Roosters came from behind to beat North Queensland 22-16.
"When we played Cowboys here [at Allianz Stadium] I didn't even think about my knee," he said.
"I just didn't care about it, it was just about me trying to damage the middle and trying to get a quick play the ball and just trying to win and that's the kind of mindset that I want to have, especially this weekend.
"I don't want to be thinking about my knee in finals footy, I want to be playing good footy. It's all trying to be confident, [shut out] all the head noise."