Veteran Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei says he feels like a child allowed back out to play as he prepares to return to the NRL after battling personal issues on medical leave.
Vatuvei has been recalled to start against Brisbane in Auckland on Saturday, boosting a Warriors side languishing in 14th spot after back-to-back defeats.
“I’m just like a little kid going back into the playground,” said Vatuvei on Wednesday.
“I’m really excited and just can’t wait to run out on the field, get the feel of things again and get my first carry.”
Vatuvei’s last match was on Anzac Day, when Melbourne whitewashed the Warriors 42-0.
The 30-year-old was then one of six players stood down for a late night out, an incident accompanied by allegations of prescription drugs being mixed with energy drinks.
He was given medical leave and returned to training three weeks ago, but wasn’t deemed mentally ready for his NRL comeback until this week.
“It’s been a while,” he said.
“It feels like it’s my first game. I’m just in that happy mindset and moving on with things.”
The club’s all-time top tryscorer with 148 in his 215 appearances, Vatuvei admitted that he thought of quitting the game because of the negative fallout he and his family were copping.
But 28-Test Kiwi also believed the difficult episode had made him more resilient.
“All that criticism does take a toll and when you bottle up a lot of things in your head, usually you explode,” he said.
“I’m happy it happened to me now. Whenever something real bad happens, I know what to do and just move on from it.”
Vatuvei acknowledged the support he had received, including from Warriors managing director Jim Doyle and coach Andrew McFadden.
“Jim and `Cappy’ came to my house to check up on me and told me that the club is behind me 100 per cent,” he said.
“They’ve been really helpful, and all the supporters, too, and I’m really grateful for everything.”