For Karmichael Hunt, a Brisbane Tens outing will be the light at the end of a very long tunnel, after injury cruelled his 2016 season.
Hunt was on the verge of returning a handful of times in the second half of last year but setback after setback on a groin injury meant he spent four months on the sideline, as Super Rugby and the Test season wrapped up and the NRC rolled around.
The 30-year-old said he was finally feeling confident in his body, after the lengthy sideline stint, out of treatment and into full training.
With the end of preseason looming, Hunt said his anticipation for 2017 was reflected among the squad.
“It's that time of the year now where the training program shifts from running and physicality to more football based style so the boys are feeling the pinch because it's been quite a hectic summer up here with the heat,” he said.
“Footy's around the corner so things are starting to get a little bit more exciting for us. The light is at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.” - Karmichael Hunt
An extra element of excitement will be added to his comeback, with NRL idol Lote Tuqiri a wildcard inclusion in the Waratahs Tens squad.
Tuqiri was at Ballymore on Tuesday but will likely feature in the Sydney 7s Classics match between Australia and Fiji this weekend and Hunt said he was intrigued to see how the 37-year-old would go.
“Talking to a couple of the boys, they said he looks pretty thick so I'll be interested to see how his fitness base is but good to see Lote involved with the Tens with all the other older players as well,” he said.
“[He was] one of my favourites growing up with the locks and the muscles so we'll look forward to seeing him in action and see how they go.”
Hunt said having some of the former Super Rugby stars in the lineup for the Tens added a different element, with former Wallabies flyhalf Stephen Larkham and Brumbies teammate Andrew Walker in the mix along with Tuqiri and former Reds fullback Chris Latham.
Reds lock Rob Simmons will be hoping the Tens format lends itself to forwards as much as backs, but is approaching the tournament with one eye on Super Rugby.
There’s plenty of hype around the Reds forwards recruits but Simmons said the talk meant nothing.
“We haven't done anything yet,” he said.
“Everyone's a hero in preseason, we're looking to do hard work and then transfer that out into the field and if that doesn't happen then we haven't done anything, but that's our goal is to really get the fans back on board, with some hard work and some entertaining rugby.”