South Sydney centre Braidon Burns says he learned plenty from his injury-ravaged 2019 season and has vowed to listen more closely to his body in future to avoid a repeat of the long injury layoffs.
Burns started 2019 with a bang, producing scintillating performances in rounds one and two before tearing his hamstring in round three.
He missed three months but put in another five strong performances from his round 15 return before another serious tear in round 22 ended his season.
However after a long off-season of carefully building his strength, Burns is ready to start 2020 as strongly as he started 2019 – hopefully without the subsequent injuries.
"Last year I probably learned a lot about myself and my body," Burns told NRL.com.
"I felt there were times I should have listened to my body a bit more and when my hammy was a bit tighter than it normally was I should have eased up a bit.
"It's something I'm taking into this year, every time I feel like my body's not ready to go to 100% I pull back and be a bit more careful and that's something I learned. Hopefully I can put that into training this year and look after myself a bit better."
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That careful approach meant a limited program before the Christmas break, even though Burns himself felt ready to go last year.
"All the strength has gone into my hammy in the gym and we've been doing 13 on 13 stuff now which is a bit more game like so it's feeling pretty strong," he said.
"I've been full training since after Chrissy. I probably could have jumped straight into full training but we wanted to hit all the markers in the gym and tick all those boxes so we thought we'd wait and once we got back after the Chrissy break I jumped straight into everything.
"[The coaches] are pretty confident with where I'm at and chucking me into every session. It's just me now feeling where I'm at, monitoring it day by day. It's the same as all niggling injuries.
"When I was a bit younger I'd come in and go at 100% every training session whereas now I can feel where I'm at and go from there and probably calm down a bit more and look after myself."
Burns is set for the left centre role with Campbell Graham outside him, James Roberts in the other centre role, Dane Gagai on the right wing and new signing Latrell Mitchell – arguably the best left centre in the world last year – slotting into fullback.
Cody Walker remains the left side half, with Cam Murray shifting from lock into John Sutton's left side back row role. Burns was looking forward to building those combinations which have strong foundations from the past two seasons.
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"It's something we build a bit of combinations there last year so if we can go out with that same combination this year, we've been training and playing there a bit so a lot of confidence going into that," Burns said.
"Cam Murray's been starting there [on the left] at the start of sessions then moving into the middle so I think he's looking likely to start there. I think he'll start there this weekend so depending how he goes Wayne [Bennett] likes the look of him in the back row.
"I think we'll go into it with the team we want to start with then throughout the game there will be changes and we'll change a few things to see how different combinations work and he'll get a good idea of who he wants to play round one."