Titans forward Keegan Hipgrave is confident of reigniting his NRL career but first must get the approval from his medical experts after suffering three concussions in the 2019 season.
The 22-year-old has not played since the round 13 win over the Broncos last year after taking an extended break following consultation with the Titans and his doctors.
It has been a frustrating seven months for Hipgrave who has been training with the Titans squad apart from contact but he said was fully on board with the decision that he has made.
The NRL already has strict rules regarding the management of head injuries and suspected concussions and CEO Todd Greenberg announced in November that the NRL had formed a partnership with the University of Newcastle and the Spaulding Research Institute at Harvard Medical School to establish the Retired Professional Rugby League Brain Health Study.
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The long-term, international research program, which the NRL has already committed $250,000 towards, is one step the game is taking to better understand sports-related concussions.
Hipgrave, an aggressive and fearless forward, said he was confident that his days of watching his teammates play without him would soon be over.
"I have a check-up in February to get the tick of approval from the neurologists and I am pretty positive about that," he said.
"I am keen to get stuck back in and do all the training and contact with the boys. I am in a positive headspace which is good."
Hipgave said he felt fine within himself now, but made the point that each player's response to concussion was different.
"Everyone is different when it comes to concussions. It is not something you can put a blanket recovery period on," he said.
"One of the weird things about concussion and having the six months off is that I feel as if I can train but I still can’t do the contact, but it is for the best and I am on board with what the neurologists are saying, and their conclusion was to have extended time off.
"I want to have a good, long career but I want to keep my head right as well."
One silver lining to Hipgrave's break was that he completed a Bachelor of Business and has now started an MBA.
Returning to the playing arena, where his take-no-prisoners approach is so valued by his teammates, is the next item on his agenda.
Hipgrave said it would ultimately be up to coach Justin Holbrook whether he made the round one side to play Canberra but he intends to put himself in the frame. He has kept himself in top shape to achieve his goal.
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"My goal is to play round one. I will probably have to do a few extra contact sessions but that will be fine," he said.
"All I have been doing is running. I am 101 kilos which I am happy with. I usually play at 103 so if I do need to put a couple of kilos on that won’t be a drama.
"All I want to do is play footy in the NRL. I have tried to keep a positive mindset and I can see the light at the end of tunnel."
Hipgrave can also see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Titans and said the mood at the club under Holbrook was "unreal".
"The vibe at the club is so positive and we are doing so much footy-related training," Hipgrave said.
"I am not in the heart of it but I can see from the sideline that the guys look so much crisper with the footy than they did last year and our defensive movements are looking good. I am really optimistic about 2020.”