Canberra Raiders back Jordan Rapana says he's fit to start pre-season training on Wednesday and ready to prove himself as a fullback contender less than three months after fracturing his skull in an NRL match.
The 25-year-old, who now has a metal plate in his forehead and a scar of 60 staples from ear-to-ear, said he had been more nervous about his comeback to the NRL last season – after six years out of the game – than he was about this latest return from injury.
While Rapana is contemplating wearing headgear to start off his comeback, he joked it was more to appease his mum.
"It'll probably make my mum a bit happier, ease her mind a bit," Rapana said.
"Ever since I started playing rugby league when I was 16, she was always on my case about wearing headgear and a mouthguard. Obviously I didn't listen to that advice, that's probably why I got a fractured skull.
"I might wear some headgear, better safe than sorry. It probably will help a little bit. But I don't feel it'll be a big issue to overcome barriers of confidence, I know I'll be sweet.
"I had no after-surgery headaches or anything like that, everything's gone well ... it's all healed now. I'm 100 per cent and I'm ready to get stuck into it."
Rapana incredibly played on for 25 minutes after unknowingly fracturing his skull in an accidental head clash during the round 23 match against the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Another serious blow on the same spot could have killed him or made him brain dead. But Rapana has downplayed the injury.
"It sounds a lot more horrific than it actually feels," Rapana said.
"It feels like nothing happened really. As much as I wish it didn't happen, I was glad it happened at the end of the season. I only missed three games, it's better that it happened then so I didn't go a whole season without football."
Initially desperate to find a replacement at fullback for star Anthony Milford, who has defected to the Brisbane Broncos, the Raiders are now far more comfortable covering the position.
While the Raiders are still linked to Manly fullback Brett Stewart, Rapana and Jack Wighton proved their credentials in the spot at the end of last season.
Rapana played only two games for the Raiders last year, his first in the NRL since his dynamic debut as a teenager for the Gold Coast Titans in 2008. But Rapana then left the game for a two-year Mormon mission, and to play rugby union.
Rapana was so explosive in his NRL comeback, the Raiders upgraded his second-tier contract and extended his deal until the end of next year.
Wighton, too, was a sensation when he switched from centre to fullback for the last three games of the year.
"Jack's a freak, you could put him in the back line anywhere, even at lock, and he'd do an outstanding job. He's an X-factor player," Rapana said.
"I just want an opportunity again and a shot. Given a good pre-season, I'm confident I can still show [coach Ricky Stuart] that I'm worthy of that position, but I'm happy to play anywhere: fullback, wing, centre."
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