Rarely has Luke Bateman been so excited to roll into club headquarters for day one of pre-season - even if he knew it was going to be "a fair bloody welcome back."
The Canberra Raiders forward is relishing his time back on the paddock after a knee injury robbed him of the chance to play in an NRL grand final this year.
Those who were there on that first Sunday in October aren't due back for another fortnight, making Bateman the most senior player on the park this week.
But the 24-year-old attacked it like he was a fresh-faced rookie desperate to make a good impression as he looks to lay the foundations for a return to the NRL.
"You walk in and see all these younger players and think 'geez, I'm getting long in the tooth'," Bateman said.
"It was a fair bloody 'g'day, welcome back', absolutely. It was good. I was pretty excited but the young boys were fairly nervous.
"All the blokes who played in the grand final and all of the internationals are coming back throughout December.
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"We've got a lot of under 20s boys that have come up and this is their first pre-season, so i think they were pretty nervous and anxious.
"But that didn't last long once they started getting flogged."
Bateman is determined to add to his 71 NRL games having missed Canberra's entire 2019 campaign largely thanks to a knee injury.
He got through 11 games in the NSW Cup but even then wasn't on a full training program. He hasn't been for the best part of eight months - now Bateman will build towards it over the coming month.
Injury kept him sidelined during the Green Machine's stunning run to the grand final before their hunt for a drought-breaking title came to an end at the hands of the Sydney Roosters.
But Bateman believes the pieces are in place for Canberra to go one better following the "sensational" acquisition of John Bateman and the rise of young guns like Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler.
"Absolutely. The idea is to make another grand final and hopefully win it, and my plan is to be a part of it and be on the field for it," Bateman said.
"It was very tough. I'm obviously good mates with everyone in the team so you're excited to see your mates do well.
"But it's hard to sit on the sideline, thinking 'I could be sharing in that success with them'. It's hard.
"It was tough sometimes, watching them go so well from the sidelines and not being a part of it on the field.
"The plan is to get into training, get fit, get my knee right, get strong again, and launch into the new year."