A wounded John Bateman circled August 8 on his calendar for his long-awaited return to the Green Machine.
The prospect of making his NRL comeback against the in-form Penrith Panthers loomed as the perfect way to repay the Canberra Raiders faithful after a frustrating seven months of contract talks and recovery.
But Bateman's return from two bouts of shoulder surgery came seven days earlier than expected, giving Canberra reprieve from a horror stretch of injuries.
The Raiders are slowly returning to full strength with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad named at fullback for Saturday's clash with the ladder-leading Panthers at Penrith Stadium.
His return from a dislocated finger sees Jordan Rapana shift back to the wing, while Michael Oldfield has overcome a hamstring injury and joins the extended bench.
Bateman will matchup against Viliame Kikau in the second row and says he's looking forward to playing against the competition's benchmark side.
"It's good to be back. It's obviously been a tough seven months for me with the shoulder, not only having one operation but having two," Bateman said.
"There's always that doubt in your mind about when you'll be back and stuff, not knowing what caused it in the first place was a bit worrying.
"I marked the Panthers game for when I wanted to be back. I came back a week earlier which helped me get my match fitness back and stuff.
"It should be good. The Panthers are the benchmark of the league at the moment, it's one of those games you're always looking forward to playing. I'm looking forward to testing myself and seeing where we're at."
Bateman made a successful comeback from injury in the Raiders' gritty 14-12 win over the North Queensland Cowboys last weekend.
He linked up with Curtis Scott and former Wigan Warriors teammate George Williams on the right-edge, with the trio combining to score two tries against the Cowboys.
It was his first match of the 2020 season, having suffered his shoulder injury while playing for Great Britain last November.
There were fears Bateman wouldn't wear the lime green jersey again after his shoulder setback, with his time in the capital coming to an end this year.
The English international signed a four-year deal last month to return to Wigan next season, ending weeks of contract speculation.
"Probably one of the most frustrating things about the contract talks was that I was injured, so I didn't get a chance to play or do the talking on the field," Bateman said.
"It's good to be back and knowing what I'm doing in the future. I've probably got 10 games left, so I want to enjoy them and go out on a high."
NRL ROUND 13
Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers at Penrith Stadium, 7.35pm.
Raiders team list: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Jordan Rapana, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Hudson Young, 14. Tom Starling, 15. Joe Tapine, 16. Ryan Sutton, 17. Corey Harawira-Naera, 18. Sam Williams 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Kai O'Donnell, 21. Matt Frawley
Panthers team list: 1. Caleb Aekins, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Brent Naden, 4. Stephen Critchton, 5. Malakai Watene-Zeleniak, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Api Koroisau, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Viliame Kikai, 12. Liam Martin, 13. Isaac Yeo, 14. Tyrone May, 15. Spencer Leniu, 16. Moses Leota, 17. Zane Tetevano, 18. Mitch Kenny, 19. Matt Burton, 20. Billy Burns, 21. Daine Laurie