This Saturday Luke Metcalf will end an 18-month wait to play his first NRL game as a Warrior.
The speedy half is someone the club have long been eager to get on the field, and they tried in vain to get him from the Sharks a year early last season, after originally agreeing to terms with him on a deal for 2023-2024 way back in November of 2021.
When he eventually touched down in Auckland late last year, he more than lived up to the expectations the Kiwi outfit had and emerged as one of their best performers through the off-season.
A starring role in the opening Pre-season Challenge clash against the Wests Tigers – which included scoring a try, running for 150 metres and breaking four tackles – had Metcalf in a strong position to nab a spot for Round 1, before a hamstring injury days later left him sidelined for the opening 10 rounds of the season.
Metcalf straight up the middle
"It does feel like it's been a long time coming," Metcalf told NRL.com ahead of his club debut against the Broncos in Napier.
"I felt really good in the Tigers [Pre-season Challenge] game... but it didn't go to plan after that.
"It's been a little bit frustrating sometimes, but you can't let yourself be like that for too long.
I had to wait until I was 22 to finally debut in the NRL, so I feel like I am pretty patient, and I have had injuries in the past to deal with too.Luke Metcalf
Given his previous hamstring issues, the Warriors took a conservative approach with Metcalf's return to action, easing him back into full team training a fortnight before giving him a 40-minute cameo in the NSW Cup earlier this month.
And the 24-year-old is confident it's all paid off.
"It's the best rehab I have had for a hamstring injury. I have done it a few times but this time I felt really good and feel like I got some answers for why I have injured hamstrings in the past," Metcalf said.
Check out the wheels on Metcalf
"We found my glute wasn't turning on and as a result was putting a lot of strain on my hammy. So I have been doing a lot of single leg work and isolated specific exercises in the gym.
"Physically and mentally, I feel really good. The hammy pulled up really good [after the first game back], so I'm not thinking about it or anything and I feel really confident in it."
In Round 13 Metcalf will team up with Shaun Johnson for the first time, which in itself will has been a long-awaited goal of his, having grown up idolising the veteran No.7 and been with him at the Sharks in 2021, without ever getting the chance to play alongside him.
"It's cool to see him on top of his game at the moment. When he is confident and running the team, that is when he is at his best," Metcalf said of Johnson.
Match: Warriors v Broncos
Round 13 -
Venue: McLean Park, Napier
"We have always got on well off the field and gelled really well on the field, so it's good to be back with Shauny.
"I will be more excited than anything [come Saturday]. I am always confident in myself because I feel like I put in the hard work to feel that way."