It's been a long and treacherous road for Simone Smith but the former Jillaroos playmaker is back on the field and eyeing a NSW jumper after a dominating performance in NSW Country's 54-0 win in Burleigh on Thursday.
Smith was judged players' player by her opponents, the Australian Defence Force side, and as part of the post-game huddle was presented with an ADF jersey to acknowledge her efforts.
Smith has been out of the game for 18 months after finally succumbing to a knee reconstruction in 2018 but despite a hiccup to her other knee during the clash, showed no ill effects of the long-term injury to set up three tries in the big win.
The CRL Newcastle playmaker was the incumbent Jillaroos halfback leading into the 2017 World Cup triumph before her right knee was injured in a club game.
"I escaped surgery when I initially did it and chose to rehab it, I had a good physio that got me back on the field and said it was a partial tear," Smith told NRL.com.
"As time passes it happens if you aren't consistent with your rehabilitation and keep playing that other parts of your knee will go around it. I just ran out of luck and did more damage.
"It was a week before I was going to make my debut for NSW in the interstate challenge. Then I wasn't cleared to play in the World Cup.
"I felt like I had everything going for me and it was in a World Cup year. It has been tough, it's hard mentally and it shows the resilience players must find. That was the learning experience for me.
"It's how you bounce back and put in the rehabilitation that makes it worthwhile."
The 26-year-old, who hails from Kempsey, couldn't have done her chances of an Origin debut for the Blues on June 21 any harm in game two of the Championships.
A match-up against Queensland Country looms next on Saturday, before a potential championship clash on Sunday should the side reach the final.
"It was just great to come back and play in the Country rugby league jersey," Smith said.
"Making the Jillaroos team was a great milestone to achieve and knowing I've been there before makes you want to get back there at some point.
"The Country side is the first honour I wanted to make coming back but anything that comes along this year is a bonus for me. I just want to stay injury free. We'll just wait and see."