John Bateman has begun putting his left shoulder to the test in the gym but is hesitant to nominate which round of the NRL season he will be back.
"I've just done my first weight session with it – pretty light obviously – felt a bit weird. But I feel really good," Bateman told NRL.com on Tuesday at the Raiders Belconnen training ground.
"I don't want to say if I'm in front or behind schedule but to be honest I'm definitely not behind at this point in time."
Last week the Raiders pencilled in round seven or eight as the likely return for the 26-year-old after he had surgery in early February.
But the Test back-rower has been through this operation once before – his right shoulder two years ago – so he's hoping to trim a week or so off that 10-week recovery.
"In two weeks time I get the sling off. I would have been building my strength up in the arm in that time so I can start some running," he said.
"That will be good as that brings me closer to getting back on the field. The last thing I'll do is contact."
Surprisingly it is not purely the amount of tackling that has damaged his joints. Rather it's a congenital issue.
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"I was born with these bones that scrape against the joint in both shoulders. There's nothing I can do about it but get them removed as they impinge on my shoulder," he said.
"So when I had the first one done, I knew the second would have to be done at some time."
The first time was playing for Wigan in February 2017 for the World Club Challenge final against Cronulla.
"I managed to get through it last time. It was right at the start of the season so I missed quite a bit – 10 weeks," he said.
"I will probably miss less this time but I can't do much about it to be fair. I've been in all the video sessions and team meetings.
"The only thing I haven't done is being out on the field, which I do miss."
He already knows he'll be a rotten spectator when Canberra hosts the Titans at GIO Stadium in the opening round on March 13.
"I'll be pulling my hair out, shouting at people. I find it hard."
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However, the operation removes pain in the shoulder.
"Literally they just took a bone out that the majority of people don’t have but I do," he explained.
Bateman needs that left shoulder back in full working order so he can play the three-Test home series for England against Australia in November.
The new England coach is Bateman's old mentor at Wigan – Shaun Wane.
"We've definitely had some special moments together. He was the one who took me on board at Wigan so he's played a massive part in my career going the right way," Bateman said.
"But I will miss Wayne Bennett. It's sad for me to see him go. I really enjoyed playing under him - he was fantastic for me and taught me quite a lot.
"I had always admired him so to be coached by him was a really good thing."
After his first NRL season, Bateman is in a much better frame of mind in coping with the distance between him and his 11-year-old daughter, Millie, back in the UK.
"If you'd asked me this time last year I would have told you a different story as I was missing her bad," he said.
"But a year on and we've done it now. We know what it is and how to deal with it.
"Don't get me wrong, it's always hard to leave her. But she's literally booked flights overnight to come out here in five weeks time."