Long wait is over for Stanley

RUGBY LEAGUE

Whenever an NRL player falls in a screaming heap clutching at their knee the same thought inevitably crosses their mind: 'please not the ACL'.

They're the three little letters that spark fear in even the most hardened rugby league players.

It's a feeling Dragons young gun Kyle Stanley knows all too well, having ruptured the fickle ligament in both knees . . . twice.

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Rehabilitating such an injury is a long and lonely journey and that's why, as most players curse the annual torture of preseason training, Stanley has enjoyed every minute out on the paddock.

"Once preseason came around I was excited because I hadn't been through one for a long time," Stanley said.

"Not being with boys through the whole rehab side of things, you're by yourself, you're secluded. I hadn't been around the team environment, so I found it very welcoming because I hadn't been around the boys a lot.

"I didn't really want to go through the second knee [reconstruction] because I knew how hard it was the first time but I pushed through it, I knew what to do because I'd done it before and I came out the end of the the tunnel.

"I'm ready to put that behind me now and start playing footy."

Though he has every right to be nervous, Stanley insists preseason ACL injuries to Lachlan Coote (Cowboys) and Matt Duffie (Storm) won't play on his mind as he makes his top-grade return in this evening's Charity Shield.

"I feel for those guys because I know what they're going through, but you can't focus on that sort of stuff otherwise the inevitable might happen," Stanley said.

"I wouldn't say I'm nervous, I haven't played footy for a year so it's more exciting times for me.

"I love playing rugby league and I've got my chance now, so I really can't wait."

Stanley, who's been touted as a contender for the Dragons No 7 jersey, will make his return to NRL level competition from the bench.

With his ability to play anywhere in the back line, the utility role is one he is embracing as he looks to regain his old punch.

"I think the main thing for me now is to come back slow and not just thrust myself into first grade," he said.

"It's a high intensity game and that's when high intensity injuries happen. I've just got to ease myself back into it, even if I do come off the bench.

"We've recruited really well, we've got a lot of depth in the halves, we've bought Dylan Farrell, we've got Gerard [Beale], Nathan Green and Charly Runciman in the centres.

"Pricey's [head coach Steve Price] going to have a real headache come round one because he's got a lot of decisions to make but it's definitely good for the team."

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