He has cast away the mental demons of a fractured skull, and now bulked-up Canberra Raiders back Jordan Rapana says he is ready to break away from NRL defenders.
Rapana has a metal plate attached to his skull and a scar of 60 stitches from ear to ear, and he is likely to wear headgear in his comeback match this weekend, but the 25-year-old said he had never been fitter or more confident before an NRL season.
Rapana played on for 25 minutes after sustaining the horrific injury in an accidental head-clash against the St George Illawarra Dragons in round 23 last year, with doctors later advising he could have suffered brain damage had he received another knock.
Less than six months on, Rapana – who may start in headgear to placate his mother – rejected any fear about his comeback against the Melbourne Storm in Griffith on Saturday.
"It's like any other injury," he said. "It'd be a different story if I was just coming back from the injury now, but it happened nearly six months ago so I've had plenty of time to get over it.
"We've done opposed sessions, almost like full-on games, and I've had no problems with it. I don't even notice it.
"I used to wear headgear, mum probably wants me to wear it ... we'll see, I might wear it in the trial game, but if I don't like it I'll brush it.
"It's 100 per cent, it's all good, all fixed up and ready to go."
Rapana is used to a good comeback story. Having made his NRL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old, scoring five tries in his first five matches with the Gold Coast Titans, he quit the game for a two-year Mormon mission and a failed venture into rugby union.
After six years out of the NRL, he was recalled with the Raiders last year, impressing in two matches at fullback before his untimely injury. Signs were so impressive, the Raiders re-signed him for another season even after the fractured skull.
He averaged 159 metres and made 23 tackle-breaks in his two games at fullback, but will make way for Jack Wighton in that position to start 2015.
Rapana, who has put on four kilograms of muscle in the pre-season to weigh in at 100kg, remains in strong contention to start the season at wing or centre.
"I'm happy with the opportunity I got last year and the pre-season I've had. It's made me feel more confident, I feel like I've got my foot in the door," Rapana said.
"In the past few months I've worked really hard in the gym, increasing my strength a lot, so I'm hoping that will add even more strength and power to my game.
"You look at the big wingers, it makes it a lot easier to break tackles and make some destroying runs. I'm hoping if I stay around this weight, I'll be able to do the same.
"You've got to go looking for the ball, roam and be hungry for it. There's a lot of similarities between winger and fullback."
Rapana and Jeremy Hawkins are front-runners to fill the remaining spot in the Raiders back line when the NRL season kicks off against the Cronulla Sharks on March 8.