JARRYD HAYNE will play his first game in Parramatta colours in seven months on Saturday night in the corresponding match that ruined his season last year.
It was against Penrith at Centrebet Stadium in the final round of trials last year when Hayne injured the knee that troubled him for large parts of the year.
It was the injury that proved to be the catalyst for a horror season for Parramatta and their fullback, who never fully recovered from it.
But the NSW winger played through the pain right up until round 20 against Melbourne, when he tore his medial ligament - a season-ending injury that required surgery.
Hayne admitted that he shouldn't have played in that match against the Storm, but believes he's learnt a valuable - albeit painful - lesson from it.
''When I actually did my knee I actually wasn't meant to play that game,'' Hayne said.
''I went that bit extra - it was a bit of a learning experience. I learnt a lot last year and I think that's the one thing I really took out of it, that is when to push my body and when not to push my body and hold back to let it heal properly.''
Hayne, who played in the NRL All Stars match at Suncorp Stadium just over a week ago, was rested for Saturday night's trial loss against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
But coach Ricky Stuart wants to see his marquee man in action in the club's final trial this Saturday night before their round one showdown with the Warriors at Parramatta Stadium.
''I would have played last night [against the Tigers] in the past, and not given my body a chance to recover,'' Hayne said. ''I didn't really see it as a thing to worry about, the Penrith trial, but the coaching staff do. I'll just prepare for that and make sure everything is 100 per cent.''
Coming off knee surgery at the end of last year, Hayne has enjoyed his first complete pre-season since he was 17.
He believes he has reached peak fitness after a gut-wrenching off-season under Stuart's coaching.
While Hayne is one of the most devastating attacking players in the game, there has been criticism of his positional play as a fullback.
The 25-year-old believes his new-found fitness levels will benefit his defensive game.
''I'm pretty footy smart so I know where to be,'' he said. ''But it's about having the fitness and endurance to get there. I've been able to complete a full off-season, and that's been the difference. It's been tough, some of the sessions are right up there … a bit of craziness. I've pushed my body to the point that I haven't been able to in pre-seasons in the past.''
The 41-4 scoreline in favour of the Tigers would suggest very little has changed at Parramatta during the past six months, but Stuart saw enough in the match to take positives out of heading into their opening-round match on March 9.
But the former Sydney Roosters and Cronulla coach admitted it was going to be a long road back to the top as he looks to rebuild the club from the ground up.
''Anyone who thinks we're going to rebuild this in two or three months doesn't know the extent of the job,'' Stuart said.
''This is a huge job. The club's been in the doldrums for a couple of years. It's going to take time to pull ourselves out of that and start showing some consistency.''