Despite a broken ankle bringing a premature end to Clay Priest’s breakout debut season, the Canberra forward is beginning to regain confidence his body can return to the NRL.
The 27-year-old went from fixing power lines for a living to the Raiders’ rookie of the year last season.
His rise was halted when he slipped over at training in the week leading up to Canberra’s semi-final against Penrith, putting an end to his year.
Priest said Saturday’s trial against Newcastle would give him a chance to erase lingering hesitation about his ankle after an off-season filled with peaks and troughs.
“I still have plenty of doubt in it at times,” Priest said.
“It was my first real injury that I’ve had in my career.
“It’s pretty difficult to comprehend but you’ve got to move forward.”
With plates and screws inserted in his lower leg, Priest admits his recovery has not only been physical.
“Sometimes you go into a bit of contact and you get a little bit of doubt, but it’s all mind over matter,” he said.
“That’s something you’ve got to readjust when you have a serious injury.”
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart sent Priest to play in last Saturday’s trial with the Mounties, the feeder club where his performances gave him a chance in the NRL.
“It was a bit rusty, I’ll admit, but it’s just all about getting the confidence back in my leg and making sure I’m right for the start of the season,” Priest said.
“It’s been a long pre-season for me with plenty of ups and downs but it’s coming along good now.
“I’m in full training and, in the trial on the weekend, it felt good.”
Priest is part of a 32-man Raiders squad set to take on Newcastle on Saturday in Queanbeyan, both clubs’ final hitout before round one.
“We have named a big squad but there’s plenty of time there for a lot of us to get a good start,” Priest said.
“Hopefully, I can push out some good minutes and really test out the leg.”
Canberra have named a near full-strength squad with stars Blake Austin, Josh Hodgson, Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii in the line-up, along with Dave Taylor who remains on a pre-season contract vying for a NRL return.