South Sydney Rabbitohs playmaker Cody Walker is "in awe" of how good Greg Inglis has looked at training recently, despite the Kangaroos and Maroons star not yet cranking up to full pace.
Inglis played just over 40 minutes of NRL in 2017 after suffering an ACL injury in round one that ended his season.
The Bunnies never fully recovered from the shock loss of their skipper and missed the finals, but Walker – who filled in at fullback for much of the second half of the season – was one of the bright spots for the club.
The Casino product didn't miss a game and topped the NRL for line break involvements (line breaks made and set up, at 1.79 per game – second was Cameron Munster at 1.62).
His 18 regular-season try assists was just one shy of league leaders Daly Cherry-Evans and Ash Taylor.
Speaking to NRL.com after a draining pre-season training session at a baking hot Redfern Oval, Walker was effusive about the effects of Inglis's return.
"Yeah it's good [having him back]," Walker said.
"I saw him the other day, I don't think it was quite in full flight but he was up to a fair speed and as we all know Greg's a freak and I'm just in awe of how good he looked when he was running.
"He's got a fair way to go but he's tracking along really well."
Prompted about the psychological lift of having Inglis back on the field – slated for February 24 in the Charity Shield at Mudgee – Walker laughed "I don't know how people try and tackle him!"
The direct flow-on effect for Walker is new coach Anthony Seibold is set to give him the chance to focus on his preferred position of five-eighth.
"Seebs has sort of said I'll be the six next year so I can really relish the role and get into it with my left edge," Walker said.
"I think there's a centre spot up for grabs and a left wing spot and there's definitely some candidates that can put their hand up."
Souths have farewelled Bryson Goodwin to the Super League and Aaron Gray to the Cronulla Sharks, but have recruited Newcastle Knights international Dane Gagai plus Jacob Gagan and Richie Kennar to give their outside backs a new look for 2018.
"We've got Robert Jennings, Hymel Hunt, Campbell Graham, Braidon Burns, Richie Kennar, 'AJ' (Alex Johnston) is still there. We're in a very good spot in terms of challenging for positions. Whoever comes out firing, it's up to them," Walker said.
"I want to focus on this pre-season and build combinations. When Greggy comes back, build combinations with Greg and Reyno (halfback Adam Reynolds), Cooky (hooker Damien Cook), [Robbie] Farah when he comes back. Sutto (John Sutton), Sammy [Burgess] when he comes back. Just build our combinations."