Powerhouse young centre Bradman Best is fighting fit and finally free of the foot injury dramas that have plagued his season.
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But the teenage Knights star is taking nothing for granted in his pursuit of a starting berth at left centre when Newcastle take on the Penrith Panthers on Sunday week at Campbelltown Stadium in the rebooted NRL premiership.
With Best sidelined, rookie incumbent centre Enari Tuala did a fine job for coach Adam O'Brien in the opening two rounds of the competition before the shutdown, scoring a double in the Knights' second round win over Wests Tigers.
Whether O'Brien continues to show faith in the former North Queensland Cowboy or rushes Best straight back into his lineup for the Panthers clash is one of the burning selection issues facing the coach leading into the game. For his part, Best is all about doing whatever he can at training to put himself in the selection frame.
"The foot is 100 percent now," he said. "I got past the rehab stage and I came back to basically full training when all the other boys did so I didn't really miss a beat there. I will be ready for selection. I just need to hopefully get picked and get myself in the team."
Rated one of the game's outstanding young talents, Best 19, was forced to undergo surgery earlier in the year after breaking a bone and tearing a tendon in his foot during the pre-season.
It was discovered when he had scans that he was one of the rare people to have an extra bone in the side of his foot. He had it removed during the operation and the tendon was reattached.
"It was a pretty weird one with the extra bone in my foot," he said.
"I didn't really notice until I got the scans," he said.
"But now that the bone is out, I'm normal, I'm like everyone else - I've got a normal foot."
Best has had no dramas since returning to the training paddock.
"The surgeon said he can guarantee there'll be no more problems. So far, there hasn't been and it feels as good as it was before the injury happened. I'm happy with how it's going so it's good," he said.
With the two incumbents Gehamat Shibasaki and Tuala, Best and a fully fit Tautau Moga all fighting for centre spots, Best admits the competition is intense with everyone.
"Geham and Nars [Tuala] killed it in the first two rounds but at the moment, we are just all training and competing hard," he said. "It's good as well because we are pushing each other, we are making each other better, we're keeping each other accountable.
"The coach hasn't said too much to me - it's still on the line and hopefully, I just keep training hard and hopefully get a spot.
"But if I don't get picked, I'm not going to have my head down and sook about it. It is what it is but I'm just going to keep competing and make sure I'm hopefully in the picture and asking questions for me to get picked."
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