Adam Elliott told NRL.com last December he was on track for the first full pre-season of his senior career.
A couple of weeks later an ankle niggle sent him to a specialist, who delivered the bad news: an ankle operation and yet another summer with the rehab crew beckoned.
Elliott played seven Telstra Premiership games in his debut 2016 season before establishing himself the following year through 24 appearances despite missing much of the pre-season both years.
In 2018 he netted another 24 games despite his summer ankle issues.
The likeable Tathra Sea Eagles junior is desperately hoping it's fourth time lucky, particularly given the depth in the Canterbury pack this year.
"This is the first pre-season in three or four that I've come into it injury free and ready to go from day one," Elliott told NRL.com.
"It was a great feeling mentally knowing I could rock up and have a crack from day one and set some goals.
"I haven't really had the chance to set any fitness or strength goals in the pre-season the previous few years because I've just been focused on injury and rehab to get back on the field in the first place, then after that my main goal was just to stay on the field.
"It was really refreshing this year and a great motivator to hit the ground running early on. I couldn't be in a better place before round one this year.
"Last year was the most frustrating of them because it was Dean [Pay]'s first season as coach and I was coming in as an established first grader for the first time as well so I really wanted to put my stamp on it.
"About three weeks in I had to see the specialist and found out I needed surgery on my ankle. Ankles are really tricky, you can get back on the field and scrape through sessions but they're never really 100% for a long time after.
"I carried that through the first couple of months of last season which was quite frustrating."
Elliott has already enjoyed a competitive hit-out this year with the Indigenous All Stars.
"It was a great week and a great chance for me to play a game of footy as well," he said.
"I got to play a week before the rest of the boys and came back here and was telling them how much fun it was, how good it was to get out there and play competitively against someone else rather than at training. Since that first taste I've been pumped and ready to go for round one."
Another benefit over the pre-season was a team-building camp in Port Macquarie.
"We get a couple of days in camp with the boys early in the season which is always good, it's a great way for the team to get a bit closer and do a bit of team bonding while we're there," he said.
"It's good early in the year to build those relationships that carry through on the field as well … It was a great chance for the boys to go fishing together, go to the beach. A few of the boys tried surfing for the first time. It was a good way to break up the pre-season with the comp starting a bit later this year."
Having grown up in the beachside south coast town of Tathra, Elliott had a head start on a few of his clubmates when it came time to catch some waves.
"Me and Tolly (Aiden Tolman) and Fozza (Kieran Foran) were trying to help a few of the boys out," he laughed.
"I definitely wouldn't say I'm a pro but I surfed a fair bit growing up, it's something I like doing when I get a day off. I've actually just moved down to the Shire so I'm doing a fair bit more of it now which is great."
The Bulldogs' revamped forward pack for round one won't feature any changes to the No.13 position Elliott has made his own since shifting from an edge to the middle at the start of 2018.
"I played lock pretty much every game last year. From when Dean first came in last year he said he wanted me to be closer to the middle and that was going to be my role in the team," Elliott said.
"It was my most enjoyable season last year and I think a lot of that came down to the position I was playing. This year I'll definitely be a 13.
"It's great for me to have that clarity on my position and moving forward knowing I can really work on my craft in that one spot, I don't have to worry about being versatile."