Jordan Petaia has reached a major milestone in his 11th-hour bid to make the Wallabies squad for the World Cup, playing his first game in almost five months for Queensland Premier Rugby club Wests.
Petaia played the final 20 minutes of the Bulldogs' 43-31 win over Souths at Chipsy Wood Oval this afternoon, blowing out the cobwebs in his first full contact match since rupturing the lisfrancs ligament in his foot just minutes into the Reds' second Super Rugby clash of the season.
The rising star needed surgery to insert - and then remove - pins from his foot and has faced an arduous rehabilitation before finally getting the green light to play.
And while he had only a couple of touches - his first a take from a Souths restart that led to heavy contact of the sort that led to his initial injury - Petaia was just relieved just to be playing again.
"It was really special, I'm pretty happy to get that game out of the way after almost five months of rehab," he said.
"It's good to see that I could come back and feel good. I think I only had two touches, but I did a lot of defending.
"It was good to get a blow out and have a run with the boys at Wests, it was good to play with some mates. I was blowing a little bit but it was good."
Petaia will rejoin the Wallabies in Brisbane next week ahead of their Test against Argentina, although rushing him into the 23 for the clash against the Pumas on the back of just 20 minutes of club football would seem folly.
The more likely option is a return in Perth, on August 10, although with James O'Connor now also in the outside back mix, the selectors may find themselves having to choose between the old and the new.
While the World Cup is no doubt in Petaia's mind after he trained with the squad at their last camp in Brisbane, he is not making any grand statements about his return.
"That's up to the coaches how they see me ," he said when asked whether he'd done enough to be in the Rugby Championship selection frame.
"But I'll go back to training next week and see what happens from there and see how I pull up from this game.
"It's just good to be back playing footy and I'll see how I go from here."
In the half hour after the game at least, all was good. Despite wrapping his left foot in ice as soon as he left the field, Petaia was pleased at how he had pulled up.
"It feels good. That's probably a bit better getting some defence ind there and seeing how it feels.
"A few touches in attack, it would have been to get a bit more ball but it was good."
Wests held a comprehensive lead by the time Petaia took the field and while they scored twice again in the final stages, those efforts were mainly from one-on-one line breaks that led to quick tries without his involvement.
Souths held court in the final stages, running in several tries, many of them on the opposite side of the field to Petaia.
He was swamped on a restart though and admitted to some nerves as tacklers piled in but was quickly to his feet.
"(I had a few nervous moments) but once you get the ball the adrenalin kicks in," he said.
But after five months on the sidelines, the worst part had been riding the bench until he finally hit the field.
"The first half I was just sitting on the bench just itching to get on," he said.
"It's good to come back down and get a run with the boys. I only got to play one game with the boys last year, so it's good to get another hitout with them."
Finding another game if he misses Wallabies selection next week could be Petaia's most difficult mission, with Wests having a bye in the final round of fixtures, while their Premier League team has missed the finals after other results failed to go their way today.
"We needed Easts to lose and they won," Petaia said.
"Our finals chances are over but I'll try to get a game next week if I can."