AFTER A disastrous 2015, Frankie Mariano is hoping for a happier new year.
The Castleford Tigers forward’s campaign was virtually wiped out by two serious injuries, to a wrist and then knee ligaments.
He went under the knife twice, for full reconstructions, but is now stepping up training and hoping to be fully-fit – and making an impact – when Tigers kick off their 2016 season at Hull KR on Sunday, February 7.
“It’s good now,” Mariano reported.
“I am getting there and now I am starting to run and get some strength back in my quad, recovery is coming on really well.”
The anterior cruciate ligament injury is the most serious Mariano has suffered during his playing career and the former Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats man insisted he won’t rush back before it has fully healed.
“I’ve just got to be patient,” he stressed.
“It is coming on strong now and I possibly could play in pre-season.
“From this point onwards it’s a case of seeing how my progression goes and taking it one step at a time.
“But I am looking forward to getting back. It is a long road, but I have got past the worst bit.
“Now I have got back on my feet and back with the squad my confidence is getting high, so it’s good.”
Mariano – who joined Tigers two years ago – is confident there will be no lasting damage from the injury, once he is cleared to play again.
“Once I’m back to full strength I’m confident in my abilities,” he said.
“It should be good when I start back. Hopefully it will be a better year.
“Two reconstructions in one year is not good, but I’ll look after my body and hopefully have a good season.
“I had the wrist recon’ at the back end of last (2014) season and that’s what made me miss the beginning of the season.
“Then when I eventually came back from that, the knee went.”
The 28-year-old admitted the second injury took its toll mentally.
“It did at first,” he said.
“When I did my knee, having had that much time out and working hard getting back in the squad, being told I’d be another nine months out did have an affect.
“But that’s part and parcel of rugby league. You have to take it on the chin.
“Fortunately I have great family and friends and they have helped me through it.
“The boys here are amazing and they kept my spirits high.
“Now I am back in full training, it is really exciting.”
Last season’s layoff could actually mean Mariano is ahead of his team-mates when the new campaign begins. He got married last month and, apart from a honeymoon in America, has been working continuously in an effort to get back to full fitness.
“I have kept training all the time, doing physio and re-hab and looking after my knee,” he said.
“I have always been around the boys and they’ve been keeping my spirits high. Now it’s the pre-season it’s the time I can start doing some things.
“I’ve already had my ‘off-season’ in the season – I was still working hard in the off-season when everyone else was resting.
“I have had my rest so that (when the other players were away from the club) was when my hard work started.”