Lichaa: my ankle can handle 80
Bulldogs hooker Michael Lichaa has overcome a shocking ankle injury that ended his 2015 season and is expecting to be an 80-minute man for his club after coming through the trials in flying colours.
The former Shark also backed himself to do a bit more ball-playing and running this season after mostly focusing on defence and ball distribution in his first full season of NRL last year.
"The ankle's good, it got through the two trials so I was pretty happy and I'm good to go," Lichaa said on Tuesday.
"It's going to be sore after most games but it's just something I've got to put up with and hopefully after a few games I'll just get used to it. It pulled up alright after the two games a couple of days after it was sore but it was ok."
Lichaa reflected on just how much medical intervention was required after his right ankle was badly broken against the Titans in Round 23 last year.
"I got a plate, five or six screws and a wire in it. That's staying in for the year so hopefully I'll just get used to it," he said.
He will be entering Friday night's season opener against Manly at Brookvale Oval expecting to play 80 minutes every game he plays.
"Last year I pushed myself to be able to become that 80 minute player and now hopefully I can reap the rewards from last year," he said.
Lichaa will also be looking to play his own game a bit more, with some more running and ball-playing, now he's used to the pace and physicality of first grade and more comfortable in first grade.
"I was a lot more nervous last year and thinking about it more before games and stuff like that but now it's not in the front of my mind at all. We've trained hard enough so I know that I'll be able to do it. Obviously the first four or five rounds I'll be blowing but so will everybody else so I'll be all right," he said.
"The year before [2014 at Cronulla] I only played half a dozen games or something in 35 or 40 minute stints. It was a bit of a different situation that year at the Sharkies so it was just 'do your best' kind of thing but last year was a bit more professional and trying to not let the team down was obviously in my head a lot, especially at the start of the year but now I'm not worried about it at all.
"Hopefully this year I can do a bit more with the ball and I think in the trials I have definitely run the ball a bit more and ball-played a bit more so hopefully that just comes and I'm really looking forward to it."
While the new-look Canterbury spine hasn't had a chance to play together yet – first-choice fullback Brett Morris is still absent with a knee injury while halves Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds missed a trial each with minor injuries – Lichaa said it's all coming together.
"It's been awesome. We haven't got to play together yet with 'Grubby' [Reynolds] missing the first trial and 'Mo' [Mbye] missing the second trial but I think we've done enough training. It might take four or five games for our combinations and fitness but if we can all stay on the park I'm pretty confident."