Shooting star Chris Clarkson has pledged to be fit and firing for the start of Leeds Rhinos' engage Super League campaign next month.
The 20-year-old back-rower's hopes of impressing new boss Brian McDermott suffered a setback when he broke a thumb in a freak training accident a month ago.
* Click here to watch the latest edition of the YEP's rugby league programme The Sin Bin.
The former East Leeds youngster had to sit out Rhinos' 40-22 win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in their opening trial game last weekend, but he revealed the hand is healing as expected and he hopes to be back in full training later this month.
* Click here for latest Leeds Rhinos news.
"It is coming on all right and I should have the pot off next week," reported Clarkson.
* Click here for latest Castleford Tigers news.
"It happened in training, in a tackling drill – I hit it on someone's
"I didn't know it was broken at first, I just thought it was bruised
and swollen. I got sent for a scan a few days later and then I had to have an operation on it, to have a plate put in.
* Click here for latest Wakefield Trinity Wildcats news.
"It's disappointing, because I was doing quite in pre-season, I was putting a bit of size on and getting myself familiar with Brian's ideas – and then I got hit with this.
"It's a six-week injury, so I've another three or four to go. Hopefully I will be available to play at the end of January and I'll be ready for the start of the season."
Clarkson burst on to the Super League scene last year, making 18 senior appearances despite not being included in the full-time squad at the start of the campaign.
The 20-year-old knows the pressure will be on to continue his progress in 2011.
"I am hoping for another big year," the reigning YEP Shooting Star stated.
"Hopefully I can build on last year, keep moving forward and keep playing well."
Clarkson is determined to avoid so-call second season syndrome, which sees a player drop off after a good debut year.
"I'm aware of it, but it's not going to affect me," he said. "I am confident I can do well and hopefully I can push on."
Rhinos are strong in the back-row, with Weller Hauraki coming into the squad during the off-season to replace the departed Greg Eastwood.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Ali Lauitiiti, Ian Kirke and Jay Pitts are also competing for second-row spots and Clarkson said he's gearing up to fight for his place.
"There's a lot of competition," he admitted. "Weller has come in and he's a good player. I have watched him in training and he's got great feet and good hands.
"He will be big competition. I just want to be around the 17 and a regular in the side.
"I think I've learned a lot in the last couple of months, since Brian has been here.
"He has taught the team a lot about different aspects of the game and I think I am a lot further on than I was last year."