HUNTER Wildfires coach Scott Coleman has never come across a player more driven than breakaway Donny Freeman.
Freeman has re-signed with the Wildfires after a short stint with the Western Force.
The 23-year-old spent 10 weeks with the Super Rugby franchise, which included a tour to South Africa. He started in 31-27 and 27-12 losses to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
On return, Freeman suffered a badly broken thumb that required surgery and put him out of the two return games against the Cheetahs in Perth, all but ending his chances of earning a full-time contract.
"He is still on the Western Force radar," Coleman said. "He had the wires removed from his thumb two weeks ago. He is going through rehab now and is another six weeks off starting contact.
"We don't start pre-season until November 20, but he has been working overtime. He ran a 4:30 Bronco on Tuesday. He has had a taste of professional rugby and is hungry for more. "
Freeman had only played one game back from eight weeks out with a syndesmosis injury when he joined the Force on the eve of last season's play-offs.
Hamish Moore, a hooker, started at openside breakaway for the Wildfires in the 23-17 loss to Norths in the elimination semi.
Moore and Freeman are among a host of players from last season, including captain Rob Puli'uvea, Andrew Tuala, and Nate De Thierry to commit for next season.
"The core of the side has returned, which is great for cohesion," Coleman said. "We are looking to strengthen a couple areas. Having Scott Wisemantel and Andrew Blades on the coaching staff I think will help with the recruitment process."
Connor Winchester (Dallas), Alex Pohla (Utah) and Phil Bradford (Utah) have signed professional deals with Major League Rugby in the USA.
"They are losses but they might be back for the end of the season," Coleman said. "The MLR finishes in July. That is what the club is about, we want to open doors for guys to go and get professional contracts."
Back-rower Chlayton Franz has moved to Sydney and joined Warringah.
Preseason training starts November 20. The Wildfires kick off the 2024 Shute Shield season against Randwick at No.2 Sportsground on April 6.