Emre Guler admits last year was pretty depressing. Watching on from the sidelines as a broken ankle kept the Canberra Raiders prop out.
The fracture was only meant to rule him out for 10 weeks, but it ended his season.
But he's back for the Raiders' crucial clash against the Parramatta Eels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
And Canberra co-captain Josh Hodgson expects the young bull will have a point to prove in his first NRL game since July.
Guler hurt his ankle against St George Illawarra in round eight last year - in what turned out to be his only start of the season.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart's decision to rest boom recruit Ryan James opened the door for the 23-year-old to come onto the bench, having started the year in the NSW Cup.
Guler said it wasn't easy spending so much time in the stands as the Raiders charged their way to the preliminary final.
Although, he was thankful to have plenty of company as the Green Machine were hit by a raft of season-ending injuries.
"It was pretty tough, especially when we started well as a team and then COVID hit us," Guler said.
"Then we came back and took off pretty well, started with a win in Melbourne, which was good. Then I got injured in round eight.
"It was tough to watch the boys. It was pretty depressing at times, but I was lucky I had other boys like Corey [Horsburgh] and 'Hodgo' in with me to get through rehab.
"It was OK at the same time because I had those boys with me."
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While Guler has come in for the rested James, Hodgson expected him to be doing everything he could to stay in the 17.
He'll have big boots to fill with the way James has started his time in Canberra after an off-season switch from the Gold Coast Titans.
James was averaging 88 run metres, has made 11 tackle busts and scored one try.
"He'd be chomping at the bit. I was speaking to him a little bit the other day," Hodgson said.
"He's certainly been playing some good footy in Cup - him and Corey Horsburgh.
"It's been important they get some footy underneath them, being big blokes and not playing for a long time last year.
"I think they've been punching out some pretty big minutes. For Emre it's a good time to bring him in too.
"He's going to be bringing us that energy and that aggression through the middle.
"It's always good when you've got a kid coming back with a bit of a point to prove."
NRL ROUND SIX
Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels at Canberra Raiders, 7.35pm.
Raiders squad: 1. Caleb Aekins, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine. Interchange: 14. Tom Starling, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Siliva Havili, 17. Emre Guler. Reserves: 18. Sebastian Kris, 19. Matt Frawley, 20. Corey Harawira-Naera, 21. Dunamis Lui.
Eels squad: 1. Clinton Gutherson (c), 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Tom Opacic, 4. Marata Niukore, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Will Smith, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. Oregon Kaufusi, 15. Isaiah Papali'i, 16. Keegan Hipgrave, 17. Bryce Cartwright. Reserves: 18. Joey Lussick, 19. Haze Dunster, 20. Wiremu Greig, 21. Jordan Rankin.