Hannah Southwell won't be ready for round one, but the Knights captain expects to be at the peak of her powers when she does return.
That moment will hopefully come in round two or three.
The 24-year-old Novocastrian ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in Newcastle's 2022 NRLW season-opener at McDonald Jones Stadium last August.
It was a devastating blow in the Kotara Bears junior's first game for her home town after NRLW seasons with St George Illawarra followed by the Roosters.
The multi-sport talent, who has represented Australia in rugby sevens as well as rugby league and played elite-level soccer, then watched from the sidelines as the Knights made history in winning the club's first ever NRLW premiership.
It was a bittersweet moment, during a long and at times lonely recovery process, but the setback has only served to make Southwell more determined to seize every future playing opportunity.
The time out of the game has brought a new perspective, and the Knights are set to reap the benefits.
"It's been tough," Southwell conceded.
"It's always very individual to the athlete. I have not enjoyed it but I've learnt a lot about myself. So it's been a really good thing and it's also been a really tough lesson.
"I'll never take playing footy for granted ever again. I didn't really before but when I step out on the field, the first game that I do come back, I'll approach it like this could be your last game again.
"So, put everything in, make sure you make every tackle, run with intent with every run because you just don't know.
"I think you will see a different side to me, a hungrier side, a more determined side and probably a side that will enjoy footy a bit more than what I used to."
Southwell is itching to get back out there, as are Knights fans to see her on the field with the lock forward set to play a pivotal role as Newcastle look to defend their title in an expanded 10-team competition.
But she won't be rushed back.
"The recovery has been really good," Southwell said.
"The physios at Newcastle have really taken care of me and we're just being extra precautious to put all of the measures in to make sure it never happens again.
"But I feel really good. It's the fittest I've ever been since probably when I was playing sevens.
"I feel ready to go now. I'm ready to hit someone, but it's more just the testing, making sure that's right."
Someone who cannot wait for Southwell's comeback game is younger sister Jesse.
Jesse made her NRLW debut in the first round of the Knights' 2022 campaign and went on to produce a break-out season, hailed as one of the game's future superstars.
"I was so excited last year and I think she is someone who everyone is scared of, myself included, so I can't wait to get out there and play alongside her," Jesse said.
"She leads by actions, and that's what you need.
"You've got the Isaah Yeos and Cameron Murrays out there who lead by their actions and that's why they're leaders in their sides.
"They don't have to speak and they don't have to have a big motivation speech before a game. That's what Hannah does. I can't wait to play alongside her and see her smack some people."
She knows backing up their premiership-winning effort in a longer season and with more teams will be harder, especially with a target on their backs, but is excited by the potential of a new-look group.
"I think we're a more well-rounded side," Southwell said.
"Last year, we had a few individuals whereas this year we've come together really, really well.
"We've got a few new faces and I think they've all slotted really well into our mantra and what we're about here, and just being hard workers.
"There's a few things that we need to work on as a group but as a whole we've got a lot of depth."
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