Canberra Raiders star hooker Josh Hodgson has his sights set on a round one return if his reconstructed knee continues to respond as well as it has been.
The England international hoped he'd be joined at the Raiders by his nephew Bailey Hodgson, but salary cap restraints meant the Green Machine were unable to accommodate him.
Instead, the 18-year-old has signed a three-year deal to join the Newcastle Knights.
Hodgson has been back running for a number of weeks and can start to change direction next week.
He's been happy with his progress and his sights were set on being ready for the start of the 2021 NRL season.
The Raiders co-captain was back playing six-and-a-half months after he did his knee the first time and has a bit more room to move this time around.
"It's coming along really well to be honest. I've been running for a while now," Hodgson said.
"Hopefully I can start my change of direction next week. So it's all pretty much on track.
"I should be back at the start of the year really.
"I think last time I did my knee on my left it was six-and-a-half months.
"I think the start of the year will be seven-and-a-half-eight months.
"Hopefully we can get some contact in February and if that goes well I'll be able to play in March."
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He'd hoped he could've spent the pre-season working with his nephew Bailey, who he sees more as a brother.
Hodgson revealed the Castleford Tigers outside back used to be a gun soccer player before making the switch to rugby league.
Bailey was part of the Leeds United academy system, until Hodgson's urging to code hop finally paid off.
Now he's emerged as a talented fullback and centre who Hodgson said could play anywhere across the back five.
While he would've liked to see him come to Canberra, he said Newcastle was the second-best place he could be for his development.
"Ideally I'd have loved him to be with me [at the Raiders], but that's just footy. That's just the way it goes," Hodgson said.
"We didn't quite have room for him down in Canberra and Newcastle did and they gave him a chance.
"I'm just really excited for him to get his opportunity."
Hodgson felt his nephew's work ethic would help him break the mould for English outside backs.
Their forwards have a proven track record from Hodgson to Elliott Whitehead to the Burgess brothers to Adrian Morley.
And Raiders halfback George Williams was setting about changing the opinion of English playmakers.
"He's got a really good work ethic and he's just got that bit about him where he'll do whatever it takes to try and make it," Hodgson said.
"It's really early days for him. He's probably a development prospect for Newcastle, but hopefully he comes out here and keeps developing the way he has the last few years.
"He's certainly got some potential. Traditionally over the years it's been pretty tough for English blokes to come out here - not many have cracked it in the outside backs ... but hopefully he can do that."
Hodgson was loving life outside of the NRL bubble.
He can now get out and about with his young family - something that he couldn't do due to the strict Apollo protocols.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has been working towards ensuring the players don't have to return to the bubble next season - or at the very worst they have a much more relaxed version of it.
"It was obviously a really disappointing end to the year for us and the boys, but certainly good to just be back to normal for a while," Hodgson said.
"Especially with the kids and the family. It was a really challenging year, especially when you've got a small family and you're cooped up inside and you can't take them anywhere."