The return of Blues co-captain James Parsons from a concussion injury suffered five months ago has been both frustrating and rewarding.

His long lay-off, following an injury suffered while playing for North Harbour on September 11, wrecked his ITM Cup season; the frequent headaches consistently putting back his return to the field.

Now, Parsons is hoping the end is in sight.

After coming through a full week of training with no adverse symptoms, the 30-year-old hooker is looking forward to starting contact work before returning to the Blues' match-day squad hopefully in round four or five, via a game for the development squad.

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The rewarding aspect has been the time spent on his fitness - both physical and mental.

"With every challenge, there's always a silver lining," Parsons said. "The body is really fresh and I've managed to get rid of all my niggles. Doing a lot of fitness work and gym work has put me in good stead for when I come back.

" I've been looking to tick off a few PBs which is always neat when you're a little bit older.

"When it happened, I probably tried too hard to come back. I was very honest about my symptoms, but I thought it would be okay. I didn't foresee it being this long. I've improved a lot off the field, especially the mental side of the game."

Parsons has always been interested in the science of sport and his time on the sidelines allowed him to develop that. Over the summer, he read The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford, a book by a man who worked with basketball greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and someone seen as crucial to coach Phil Jackson's 11 NBA titles.

Mumford's own story is inspirational. A former college basketballer, injuries forced him from the court and a battle with painkillers helped lead him to a heroin addiction.

"Mindfulness" as applied to sport is effectively a way to challenge athletes mentally. It teaches resilience, something that Parsons has had to show during his time away from the game and during the on-field highs and lows of the Blues last year.

He said his combination with fellow co-captain, loose forward Jerome Kaino, worked well because they complemented each other.

"It's something that worked really well for us in that last month. I relish that on-field leadership and making decisions in the game and planning the week. Jerome, we all know, thrives on leading by actions. We find the balance is pretty spot-on for us as a group."

Asked about the Blues' finish to last season which featured a big win over quarter-finalists the Brumbies and an excellent performance in beating the Waratahs, he said: "That's the bar and we need to start there and lift. That's our goal. We've also hopefully made a few shifts elsewhere in terms of having an ability to adjust in games." Patrick McKendry