After undergoing his fourth shoulder reconstruction in five years Titans prop Max King is ahead of schedule in his recovery to be in the best shape of his life.
The 21-year-old played all 12 games for which he was available in 2018 before dislocating his right shoulder against South Sydney in round 14.
King was fresh from an intense contact session at Titans training when he spoke to NRL.com about the progress he has made and the silver lining that came with his injury.
"I got in a week or two of contact before we broke up for Christmas and now I'm flying," King said.
"I've been hitting PBs in the gym and [the shoulder] has fully recovered. While it is never good to be injured, and missing the second half of last year was hard, it has reaped benefits.
"It gave me time away from the week-in and week-out grind to focus on getting the shoulder right, but also to add some weight and build some strength. In 2018 I was 103 kilos but now I am 109 or 110 and it feels like I did it naturally."
King was well aware what he was in for with his rehab. When the specialist told him what he needed to do, he knew the spiel off by heart.
"I had my first shoulder reco at 16. I've had three on my left shoulder and now one on my right but to be honest this is the best one I have had recovery-wise," King told NRL.com.
"It has been pretty eventful. The first two reconstructions were virtually back-to-back.
"I have been working hard to improve it. I am in the best shape of my life and never felt as good to step on the football field."
Garth Brennan has a high opinion of King. He's not handing out positions for the round one side yet but made the point that King is a player he has always picked when fit and healthy.
"Max was an automatic selection in my 17 until he did his shoulder and he is 100% fit now and ready to go," Brennan told NRL.com.
With Shannon Boyd now on board, Moeaki Fotuaika fresh from a breakout season and Jack Stockwell in the frame, King is taking nothing for granted in his quest to get back in the top 17.
"It is like any sport. You get injured and blokes will put their hand up in your position and give it all they have got," King said.
"Once you've lost it, you've lost it. So it is one of those situations where I am going to have to earn it back. The pressure of trying to find a spot back in the team is something I have to handle. It is really forcing me to pull my finger out and rip in at training."
Five key matchups of the Titans' 2019 draw
For King, the rest of the pre-season will be one where he adopts his "glass half-full" approach to life and footy. His determination is worn on his sleeve.
"I always look at the positives. This is my fourth [reconstruction] and when I look back at my previous three it has always made me come back hungrier," he said.
"It has done things mentally where it can make you want to go further than just being in the 17 to wanting to be a quality, star player in the team.
"This pre-season everything is about competition at the Titans and it is not just with the front-rowers. It is in every space. It is interesting. You don't really know what the team will look like in round one but everyone is busting their gut to be there."
Best finishes of 2018: Titans edge Raiders in thriller