Luckless prop Sam McKendry has all but conceded his NRL career with the Panthers is over but wants to go out on a high note after three consecutive ACL reconstructions.
McKendry opted for a different avenue with his third surgery after rupturing the same cruciate ligament in round two last season, using a tendon from his own patella – not a donor – to repair the injury.
The 29-year-old returned to the paddock a fortnight ago for the Panthers' Canterbury Cup side after 15 months on the sidelines rehabilitating his troubled right knee.
"It's good to be back with the boys, it was very special the other week and the 'old lady' (his mother) come over as well which was special," McKendry told NRL.com.
"It was pretty good to be out there. I had a hiccup in the game with a head knock but felt a lot better."
McKendry is easily part of the "unlucky" club to join the likes of Newcastle pair Tautau Moga and Slade Griffin in recent seasons to have struggled with consecutive ACL ruptures.
Asked if he felt like one of the unluckiest men in rugby league, the former Kiwi international shrugged.
"I wouldn't say I'm unlucky," McKendry said.
"I just think the type of surgery I had for the first two surgeries I had with the donor, I wouldn't recommend it.
"Using my own tendon, at least if it fails I know it's my own body and not someone else's. You might get tendonitis long-term, that's probably the biggest risk, but otherwise it feels the same and I'm feeling confident with it."
McKendry isn't in the club's top 30 despite once being re-signed on a lucrative long-term deal that will expire at the end of the 2019 season.
He's accepted he won't play in the NRL at least this year, while his future at the Panthers appears to be coming to an end.
"It is what it is, I've just got to play some good footy and see what happens for next year," McKendry said.
"I've just got to get through the season and not get injured. I'll take it week-to-week and try to walk the talk. The club has been good along the way, I've just got to repay them best I can."