ANGUS Brown simply wanted to sit in a chair without pain shooting down his leg at the start of the year.
Playing rugby - let alone playing in the Shute Shield - wasn't on the radar.
Brown had back surgery in January to shave a disc which was pressing on a nerve.
Initially, he anticipated having a year on the sideline.
However, a trouble-free rehabilitation combined with extended downtime due to COVID-19 hastened his recovery and his hunger to return to rugby.
On Saturday, the diminutive inside centre starred on debut as the Wildfires snatched a 29-all draw with Manly at Manly Oval.
The position is now his to lose.
"I pinched a nerve in my lower back player for Hamilton against Merewether at Townson Oval last June," he explained. "When I was playing footy it didn't bother me. It was more when I was sitting down at work. I would get pins and needle shooting down the right side of my leg. It was very uncomfortable.
"At the start of the year, I had surgery where they shaved the disc to release pressure on the nerve.
"I wasn't supposed to do any contact until June or July and thought I might have to take a year off.
"[Hamilton teammate] Dane Sherratt had similar surgery and contacted me and ran through what he did with his rehab. He ended up playing again, so I was always pretty confident.
"The break due to Coronavirus was perfect for it. Halfway through the year and I got the itch to play again. The rehab went well and I felt 100 per cent so I decided to play. I'm really confident with it now."
At 81 kilograms, Brown is one of the smallest inside centres in the competition and can give his opposite as much as 30kg.
"If you tackle with intent and have good technique, it usually works," Brown said.
Brown was a halfback at school, playing in the second XV at St Ignatius Riverview, and only shifted to the centres in 2017 at Easts colts.
"When I went to Easts there was was an opportunity to play wider where I could run with the ball," he said.
Wildfires coach Scott Coleman, who also coached Brown at Hamilton for the past two years, convinced the 22-year-old to return to the No.9 jumper when he was low on stocks at the start of the Shute Shield campaign.
"We tried him at nine again, but he just had too much to work on with his pass," Coleman said
Brown was the third different player used at inside centre in four games.
"I thought he did really well," Coleman said. "He performed well in seconds the week before, scoring a couple of tries and didn't miss a tackle.
"I thought against Manly, he would really stiffen up the middle of the field, which he did. I also wanted to reward the guys who played well in second grade with a chance.
"Pound for pound he is one of the toughest in the comp. He throws his body in and has no self-preservation. There is nothing flashy about him. He just works hard and gets the job done."
Next for the Wildfires is Northern Suburbs at North Sydney Oval.