Ryan James joked his almost three-year-old son has finally realised that "Dad doesn't just train" after the Raiders prop's long-awaited return to action.
Stuck on the sidelines for a painstaking 678 days because of back-to-back ACL ruptures, James worked hard as he made dual Canberra debuts in their NSW Cup and NRL trials at Seiffert Oval on Saturday.
He came on during the first half of the opening clash with North Sydney, playing deep into the second term, and produced another solid effort off the bench against the full-strength Roosters.
The former Titans veteran said it was a "proud moment" as his youngest son, Brooklyn, could comprehend his father's job for the first time.
"I think he knows what Dad does now," quipped James, who was understandably "very nervous" before taking the field.
"He was probably only two or three months old the last time he saw us [play]; he didn't know what was happening. He's old enough now to know that I play footy and it's good to do it."
There was another first for James in Queanbeyan - being refereed under some key rules changes.
Match Highlights: Raiders v Roosters
The 29-year-old noticed an increase in speed but looked comfortable on both sides of the ball in each match.
"The game's changed a lot in the last two years. It was a little bit different to get used to the six-agains and having to make continuous tackles, but it's something I'll have to learn on the run," he said.
"The body feels all right now, but as soon as I sit down, I'll be feeling it," he added after the main game, won 26-20 by the Roosters.
"My jaw and neck and shoulders aren't used to it. I'm not used to tackling that much after two years off."
Despite his encouraging performances, James isn't sure if coach Ricky Stuart will select him for round one against the Wests Tigers.
He didn't read much into the fact that Stuart injected him as one of his first interchanges in the NRL fixture.
"I wasn't supposed to play the first half of the second game but I was lucky enough to get out there and do it, and that was probably my best stint, so I was happy I did," James said.
A host of other Raiders also successfully returned from injuries that curtailed their 2020 campaigns, including Bailey Simonsson (shoulder), Emre Guler (ankle) and Corey Horsburgh (foot).
Like James, Simonsson featured in both matches and was delighted to emerge unscathed having not played since round nine last year.
Simonsson spent about 15 minutes at fullback against the Bears, and played on the right wing, with Jordan Rapana on the other side, when Canberra fielded their top team versus the Roosters.
Wighton at his attacking best
"I'm hoping [to be in the round one team]. I guess you never know. Your place is never guaranteed in the NRL," Simonsson said.
"It was really gutting for me last year that I couldn't play, really ... There was probably an opportunity to get a [starting] spot there, and unfortunately injuries happen in footy.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to our physios and rehab staff at the club ... They really get that confidence back into you."
Simonsson said he enjoyed lining up outside centre Curtis Scott.
"[Scott is] a great player, he's done a lot in the game at such a young age. It'd be exciting if we could build a little combination together."