STRIKER Kaine Sheppard believes there is no better way to get up to speed than banging bodies with Jets enforcers Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Lachy Jackson every day at training.
Sheppard made a long-awaited return from toe surgery, playing nine minutes off the bench, in the Jets' unlucky 2-1 loss to Adelaide at Coopers Stadium on Sunday.
"It was good to get back out there and I felt fine which is a positive sign," he said.
Sheppard spent nearly three months out and while he worked hard to maintain fitness, it will take a couple of weeks to get back into game mode.
"The more game time I get, the quicker I will get the match fitness up and cardio as well," he said. "I also have to get used to how the boys have been playing and get up to speed. We play a lot of games at training and I'm up against Nikolai and Lachy every day. There is no better test.
"The toe has been fine. I was meant to be in contention for this coming week anyway."
After a strong debut season in which the English-born attacker scored three goals and constantly sparked the attack, Sheppard continued to work hard and arrived for the pre-season "in the best shape of my life".
"The injury was a bit disappointing in that regard," he said. "I have managed to maintain myself and have put on a little bit more muscle. Chris Smith the strength coach and our physio Nathan Renwick have been pushing me."
Initially, Sheppard thought he had a stubbed toe after winning a penalty in a pre-season friendly with Sydney FC in Dubbo on September 21.
"It felt like I had a turf toe," he said. "But then I had a couple of scans and it got worse and worse. I had the option to wait and see if it healed on its own or have the operation. From a mental perspective for me, it was better to have the surgery and know how long I was going to be out and focus on the rehabilitation.
"It was a rare injury. The surgeon had to reattach the ligament to the outside of the big toe and shave a little bit off the bone. I am left-footed and the place I had the surgery is mostly where I kick the ball. It's fine now and I'm excited to be back out there."
The Jets dominated every where bar the scoreboard against Adelaide.
"It was a very disappointing result," Sheppard said. "We had a lot of chances that didn't go our way."
But he was confident the Jets would bounce back against Melbourne City at home on Sunday.
"If we stick to it and keep believing in ourselves and keep pushing ourselves to get better, it will all click," he said. "Obviously, we want to pick up points and get results. But if you look at the table, it is still really close. A couple of wins builds confidence. The wins we had against Western United and Wanderers were fantastic.
"I have watched a few of City's games this season and they play really good football. But I still feel if we play our best football and take a couple of chances we have been getting, we can beat anybody on our day."
With Abdiel Arroyo out for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury and Wes Hoolahan at least a month away," Sheppard's return is timely for the Jets.
"This week, depending on the game situation, I'm hoping to get a few more minutes and really push myself and then keep building from there," he said.