Returning Warriors centre Ngani Laumape says he went to a "dark place" when it was feared he had suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-February.
After making 30 NRL appearances playing both on the wing and in midfield since his debut in 2013, the 21-year-old trained the house down over the summer and had his sights set on making the left centre position his own.
He was forced to watch from the sidelines over the opening month of the NRL, and ahead of his comeback match at right centre against the Storm in Melbourne on Monday, Laumape spoke about the cruel uncertainty he had endured.
"I went to a pretty dark place. I had worked pretty hard through the off-season and pre-season to get where I was and to go down like that a week before round one was pretty shattering," Laumape explained. "Knowing I could need another knee reconstruction was pretty heartbreaking at the time. They told me meniscus but then I went and had a scan and it was a partial tear of my ACL.
"Luckily my fat legs stopped my knee from fully rupturing so thanks to the man above for not letting that happen. The positive out of that is that my season is not over and I can keep playing."
Laumape is satisfied last week's hit-out with the Warriors NSW Cup side has blown out the cobwebs and confident his knee is back to full strength.
"I was happy I got through the whole game. My knee was solid so I'm stoked and looking forward to Monday's game," he said. "I've tested it every way that I can and it's sweet."
The Warriors right edge has seen some heavy rotation in the past four games, with Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry, Tui Lolohea and Matt Allwood all filling the midfield void at some stage as injuries ravaged coach Andrew McFadden's backline stocks.
McFadden admitted he was relieved to have Laumape back on deck after losing usual right-centre wrecking ball Hurrell (knee) and rookie wing Ken Maumalo (hamstring) in round one, fullback Sam Tomkins (knee) in round three, while speedsters Glen Fisiiahi and David Fusitu'a continue to work their way back from shoulder problems.
"It's very good. He probably would have been there in round one had he been fit," McFadden said. "He had a huge pre-season and was as fit as he's ever been and physically he gives us a lot of punch so I'm really excited to see him back."
Laumape acknowledged the pressure was on him to tighten up the unsettled right edge defence which was exposed by both Parramatta and Brisbane in the last fortnight.
"Combinations will come in time but if you get that opportunity you just have to take it and do the best job that you can," he said. "I've been in line for that criticism before, playing on that right side when I first came into the team.
"But I only know one way to bounce back and that's just by talking to my insides and outsides to defend well. If they keep coming down our way we just have to stop it.
"I'm looking forward to playing with Shaun [Johnson]. It's good to have one of the best players in the world inside you so I'm really happy."