Canberra veteran Jarrod Croker is set to make his long-awaited return from injury against the Bulldogs on Friday night, a full 268 days since his last appearance in lime green.
While the helmeted back has been a mainstay in the Raiders' line-up since joining the club ahead of the 2009 season, Crocker's 2022 campaign has been stymied by a debilitating knee injury.
However, after undergoing revolutionary stem-cell treatment on the troublesome joint, the Goulburn product is set to recommence a career that currently sits only nine games shy of a triple-century.
Should Croker remain fit and surpass the marker against the Storm on July 17, the 31-year-old will become the second Raider behind his namesake, Jason Croker, to surpass the vaunted figure.
“The back-end of last year was the hardest part of my career, with the unknown,” Croker told The Daily Telegraph.
“Not knowing how I would react to the stem cell was tough.
“The fact that I‘ve been able to play footy and train and enjoy myself, while not playing NRL, to do what I love, has been better than last year when I was thinking, geez, is it all over?"
Ahead of his return to action against the Dogs, Croker revealed that he had gained confidence from conversations with Trent Hodkinson and Boyd Cordner, who both made comebacks to first-grade following similar procedures.
“It’s tough sitting there and wanting to help, but not being able to," Croker added.
“I spoke to 'Hodko' (Hodkinson) and Boyd and both gave some real confidence.
“The surgery has bought me some time and I’m holding on for dear life."
Despite time out of the game, Croker also claimed that he was feeling and moving well ahead of Friday night.
“I’m moving way better than what I was all last year and it’s been a case of so far so good," the one-time NRL All-Stars representative said.
Given Canberra has only proven able to produce a 2-6 record in Croker's absence, the return of the contemporary great is sure to buoy moods, and potentially results, in the Raiders' rooms ahead of the Origin period.
Kick-off on Friday night is scheduled for 6:00pm (AEST) at GIO Stadium.