Terry Campese hopes to start the 2013 for the Raiders after two injury ravaged seasons. Photo: Getty Images
Terry Campese won't take any risks in his comeback from a second knee reconstruction and will return when he is mentally and physically ready for the rigours of the NRL.
The Canberra Raiders captain is earmarked to feature in one or both of the team's trial games in February, but won't rush back before he has full confidence in his fitness.
The former Kangaroos and NSW five-eighth is also focused on his own recovery and not the threat presented by current halves combination Josh McCrone and Sam Williams.
Campese's only concern is getting back on the park for his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament for a second time in April.
Campese is reluctant to put a date on his return and Raiders coach David Furner told The Canberra Times at the weekend he was unsure if his playmaker would play in the pre-season trials.
''If everything goes to plan I'll be right by the start of the year,'' Campese said.
''I don't really want to say exactly when I'll be back to put pressure on myself or my body.
''There's a long off-season and pre-season ahead of us.''
Campese returned to field running a couple of weeks ago, and has also improved his conditioning by using an anti-gravity treadmill, which reduces the amount of gravity resistance on the lower half of the body.
He consults his surgeon every month and hasn't required any follow-up surgery.
''He's over the moon [with my progress],'' Campese said.
''Surgeons are always confident in their work, but he's been really happy with the range of movement.''
A fully fit Campese would be equivalent to a new signing for the Raiders after two injury-interrupted seasons.
He has played just eight games since tearing the ACL in his knee in the 2010 finals series.
There was more rotten luck when he suffered a season-ending groin injury in his first game back, playing just eight minutes in 2011.
Campese had again showed glimpses of his dynamic best this year before his season came to an abrupt halt at Suncorp Stadium.
''There were no signs before it went again, it was just one of those freak accidents,'' he said.
''This time I want to be 100 per cent in the mind and body before I play again.
''That's why we've taken it a little bit slower this time because we've got a little bit [of time] before the season starts.
''So when the time comes to run out there, I'll be confident in everything I've done.''
The 28-year-old has continued training while his teammates are on their end-of-season break and expects to return to the rest of the squad by Christmas.
The Raiders will want to build on their strong finish to the season, storming home after a mid-season slump to make the finals.
The impressive form of McCrone and Williams was a large reason for their success.
McCrone has embraced the extra responsibility thrust upon him with Campese on the sidelines.
He found a willing halves partner in Williams, who looked assured in the top grade after being dropped earlier in the year to fix his defence.
David Furner has ruled out switching McCrone to dummy half, the position he filled so admirably for Country in his representative debut this year.
Campese is pleased to see the pair hit their straps and is solely focused on his own recovery.
''I just want to be out there, it doesn't matter where I am,'' Campese said.
''I'm just happy for the boys that they're playing well and getting the combination.
''You don't want to use that as motivation because they are your teammates and you want to be part of it any way you can.''