Steve Matai joined a long list of NRL players who underwent surgery during pre-season, yet the Manly hitman is adamant he can overcome a troublesome left shoulder in time for the start of the 2015 season.
Initial prognosis revealed Matai would miss the opening month of the new season, however, recovery is well ahead of schedule, meaning the centre is expected to make a surprise return for round one.
Matai, who has had a long history of shoulder problems, returned with his teammates from a three-day camp in Kosciuszko on Friday, as they embarked on a trip designed to bolster team comradery as well as test physical and mental strength.
While it’s almost certain Matai won’t be in Auckland for the Nines in January, the Manly star is targeting a return for the side’s season opener against Parramatta on March 6.
Matai injured his shoulder in the opening minutes of Manly’s round 22 clash with the Rabbitohs and was ultimately forced to go under the knife during pre-season.
“After the tackle I had a tear in there and then missed the next game. We managed it through the last month of the season but it was still sore,” Matai said.
“We felt after the season that it would settle down but I went and saw the surgeon and he said we might have to do something to it.
“After surgery they thought I was going to be a bit longer but the surgeon said recovery is going to be a little shorter. That was a real positive.
“I’m just looking to get back in January and starting some contact in February and hopefully start round one.“
Matai started rehab earlier this month and will continue to be monitored in a bid to be fit for the start of the season.
The centre joined Manly’s casualty ward consisting of several key members, including the likes of Jamie Buhrer, Jorge Taufua and Brenton Lawrence.
“It’s always easier to train with other people. When you’re training by your self it’s always hard but we always talk with each other in the gym and we’re always picking each other up,” Matai said.
His left-sided accomplice, Taufua, recently started running after he too came back from shoulder surgery. The damaging winger, who has scored 40 tries in 65 appearances, will resume fieldwork at the beginning of the New Year.
Front-rower Lawrence went under the knife to remove loose cartilage in both his knees and is likely to start running after the Christmas break.
Jamie Buhrer is likely to begin running in mid-December following surgery to repair the ruptured ACL he suffered in round 25 last season. The back-rower is hopeful of a return for Manly’s season opener.