Three months after going under the knife, Phoenix Crossland is desperately hoping surgery will finally bring to an end his two-year injury curse.
His survival at the Knights may well hinge on it.
The 20-year-old playmaker is only a week or two away from resuming full training with the squad following an operation last October to rid him of the groin pain that has been nagging away at him for the past two seasons.
Constant physio between games and the odd cortisone injection got him through last season, when he added to his cameo debut off the bench in 2019 by making a further six appearances in the top grade under coach Adam O'Brien.
All were in the unaccustomed role of interchange hooker but the experience only added to his hunger for more NRL game-time. He says the decision to delay surgery until the end of the season was well worth it. But now the crunch comes.
Crossland is yet to turn 21 but is coming off contract and knows another young playmaker, North Queensland's Jake Clifford, is on his way. That's hardly a glowing endorsement of the club's faith in him.
Asked about his contract situation, Crossland told the Newcastle Herald: "I'm a big thinker so I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it.
"I know I'm off so it's going to be a big year for me and I know at whatever level I play, I have to impress. Any player who says they aren't worried about their contract situation is lying.
"I obviously want to push to re-sign but at the end of the day, the only way it's going to happen is if I'm playing good footy. I just have to put my focus on the right things and push myself hard to achieve what I want to achieve."
From a confidence perspective, not having to deal with groin pain will help.
His surgery wasn't straight-forward. After having scans, it was discovered the right side of Crossland's pelvis was 5 mm higher than the left and he was also suffering tendinopathy.
"I had mesh screwed into my pelvis to level it up and they sniped the adductor tendon off the bone to release my groin so that I'm able to move better," he said.
"It's a bit over 12 weeks since I had it done and I'll hopefully be back doing just about everything at training either next week or the week after."
Crossland's goal is simple. He wants a crack at five-eighth outside Mitchell Pearce.
"I haven't really had a chance to show Adam what I can do in the halves. But I know I am going to have to earn it first," he said.
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