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Warriors back-rower Jazz Tevaga.

A blatant disregard for his own physical wellbeing was a defining trait of Jazz Tevaga's first four seasons in the NRL, but he now accepts that way of thinking had him on a fast track to self-destruction and a potentially shortened career.

The 24-year-old battled through a painful high ankle sprain for the second half of 2019, missing just two games with the injury before defying medical advice to appear in all of the Warriors' final 12 matches.

It's hoped surgery in December to shave back inflamed ligaments and bone spurs in the ankle has fixed the problem, and Tevaga told NRL.com the operation and subsequent 12-week lay-off has opened his eyes.   

"I never thought I would have surgery or anything like that," said Tevaga, who also had an operation in 2018 on his shoulder to remove a potentially cancerous growth.

"Now that I have I will start to take a bit more care with my body and how I run things.

Soward's Say: 2020 Warriors

"I didn't really fuss too much in the past. I didn't even really stretch too much, I just trained and then went home, played my game and then went home.

"But now I have actually realised what it takes to reach 200 games, to reach 300 games.

"I'm doing more rehab, doing extra recovery, more stretching and yoga. All that behind the scenes stuff."

Tevaga was cleared to start running again at the start of March and is targeting a round four return to the field.

Standing at 178cm tall and playing at around 94kgs, the Toa Samoa international was one of the smallest middle forwards in the competition last year.

He has used the forced time off his feet to add muscle to his upper body and hopes it will make him a more resilient and effective player.

Inside the NRL returns

"I've been doing a lot of upper body stuff while trying to stay off my ankle… it's given me an opportunity to get my strength up," Tevaga told NRL.com.

"I have put weight on, both good and bad.

"Now that I have put on a bit of beef up top hopefully I can have stronger carries and be a bit more dominant in my tackles."

Tevaga finished last year as the Warriors' first-choice lock, finding a home in his preferred position after spending the first half of the year as a bench utility.

A heavy injury toll also forced him to play dummy half on a number of occasions, but coach Stephen Kearney hopes that won't be the case in 2020.

"Ideally Jazz is a lock. I think that's his best position," Kearney told NRL.com.

"I think he can do a commendable job at nine, but the best of his work is done when he is coming onto the footy and putting defensive lines under pressure with his leg speed and awkward running style."