Snap ... Todd Carney's Achilles tendon gives way during the elimination final match against the Canberra Raiders. Photo: Getty Images
SYDNEY: NSW star Todd Carney is on course to return for the start of the NRL season after surgeons discovered his ruptured Achilles tendon was a time bomb that could have snapped at any time.
Carney was carried off in Cronulla's finals loss to Canberra in September and immediately went under the knife in Sydney.
Sharks' doctor David Givney said only then was the full extent of the injury discovered, and surgeons were shocked the playmaker managed to play as many games as he did last season.
"When they did the operation, they realised it was something that had developed over many years," Givney told AAP.
"It wasn't just an acute injury that happened on that day. It was like a ticking time bomb.
"It emerged that Todd had a number of significant problems to that area and that really worried me.
"So much so, we've actually checked out his other foot. But fortunately, that is fine."
Carney, who made his NSW State of Origin debut this year, is already back working on a vacuum treadmill which allows him to run in a moon boot using only 40 per cent of his body weight.
He has also spent time working out at the NSW Institute of Sport's altitude chamber and Givney is confident of a full recovery for the Sharks' season-opener in March.
"It's all going to plan and the way things are going, he should be right for round one," he said.
"For a normal person, they would have no chance.
"But Todd is not the sort of bloke you can keep quiet. He's doing everything we want him to do and the specialist is very pleased with his progress."
Carney had been struggling with a problem in his heel last year, but Givney said it was unrelated to his current injury.
"We all said to each other: 'how did we not see it coming?'. It was reported the Achilles had been needled, but that was not the case.
"It's such an unusual injury for people in their 20s. At the Olympics, there was just one Achilles (injury) among 10,000 athletes.
"But at the last Masters Games, there were 67. It's an old person's injury.
"The good thing is that he's got the off-season to get it right and not missing any games."
An extra incentive for Carney to get back on the playing field is the prospect of cashing in on a new contract.
His current deal, worth around $200,000, expires at the end of next year and, with the salary cap set to rise from $5m in 2014, Carney will be confident of signing a lucrative deal.
He took a significant pay cut to join the Sharks after being axed by the Roosters in 2011, and football manager Darren Mooney is hopeful he'll stay.
"He's off contract next year and, like all of our players, if he plays well, then we'll want to keep him," Mooney told AAP.
"But nothing has been discussed yet. But, when the time is right, that conversation will happen."