Less than six months ago Atu Moli couldn't even watch a full Super Rugby match.
Doing his best to keep himself distracted from the sport after a horrific leg injury left him sidelined last season, the Chiefs prop feared the worst for his rugby future.
But finally back on track, Moli reappeared on the Super Rugby scene last Saturday in a trial match against the Blues in Kaikohe, with the 23-year-old even requesting extra minutes from coach Colin Cooper.
"It was awesome, just getting that feeling back of what Super Rugby actually tastes like," Moli told Radio Sport.
"I was just hungry to get on the field and just remembering when I was lying on the couch doing nothing and itching to play.
"I wasn't really worried about my leg to start off with, it was more the lungs than anything else."
Following a breakout year for the Chiefs in 2017, Moli earned his first taste of All Blacks rugby before his 2018 campaign ended suddenly in the season opener against the Crusaders last February.
Moli copped a knock to his leg which left him with a haematoma in his quad muscle and in a hospital bed for two weeks.
The painful injury, made up of an abnormal collection of blood outside a blood vessel, was operated on four times.
"They had to cut the whole side of my quad to release the pressure of that muscle that was clogging up," Moli explained. "From there on it was just open, close, open, close."
He told the Herald in June that while there was nothing visible in the damaged area to alert him, the pain was undeniable. After his diagnosis, medical staff ran him through a list of worst-case scenarios of the injury — which included amputation.
Moli had eyed a return in time for the Mitre 10 Cup but the long and often frustrating road to recovery saw an extended layoff from the game.
The one-match All Black is now hungrier than ever after gaining some minutes on Saturday and, although confident about what the future holds, didn't want to dwell too much on what was to come.
"I don't want to think that far ahead of myself," he said. "I'm just happy that I'm back on the field running and happy to get a few minutes under my belt.
"It was a long process, a lot of learnings came out of it, a lot of ups and downs ... I think that's the main thing."
Moli is set to play more minutes in Friday night's pre-season closer against the Reds in Brisbane ahead of round one against the Highlanders in Hamilton next week.
The No 1 jersey will likely be locked in Moli's sights and could be up for grabs with All Black Karl Tu'inukuafe having shifted to the Blues.