Wade Graham is confident he can return for Cronulla in round one of the NRL as he maps out his comeback from three concussions last season.
Graham has not played since his head knock against Penrith in June, prompting him to step away from rugby league.
The Sharks captain returned to training alongside recruit Cameron McInnes about a month later, by which time the competition had moved to Queensland and his season was declared over.
Graham has discussed with new Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon a timeline for his return and the now 31-year-old is confident he can have close to a full pre-season in preparation for the 2022 campaign.
"The harder I trained the better I felt," Graham said at Cronulla's delayed grand final luncheon.
"I will start back all the physical training with the boys, we might just monitor my first part of contact and ease my way back into that.
"That is the last hurdle for me.
"I am running and lifting at 100 per cent but since the last concussion I haven't taken part in any team contact.
"That will be the progression I take.
"But it's October and I don't need to play until March, so there is plenty of time."
Graham at least has Fitzgibbon in his corner, with the former Sydney Roosters assistant having dealt with the retirements of Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner this year due to their concussion issues.
Graham initially missed a fortnight early last season after two concussions in 15 days.
His concussion against Penrith then came, with Graham admitting his tackle technique had let him down as he ducked too early and got his head in the wrong spot.
He was also ruled out of another game in round eight after copping a knock and looking unsteady on his feet, before being cleared to return the following week.
"It's hard in the concussion space, because it's very individual," Graham said.
"People react different to their circumstance. I came quite good straight away after each concussion.
"I passed all the HIAs and follow-up tests.
"But having three in the year I couldn't stare down the barrel of having another one.
"The right thing to do was to give my body a rest, give my head a rest and make sure I was healthy and have myself every opportunity to come back at 100 per cent."
Australian Associated Press