St George Illawarra Dragons centre Euan Aitken is looking forward to a big 2018 after using the off-season to overcome shoulder and hamstring injuries.
The 22-year-old’s 57-game NRL career has been derailed by multiple injuries since a promising debut in 2015 and Aitken is confident he has finally put the issues behind him.
“I think there’s a lot more potential for myself,” Aitken said. “I’ve got to tap into that, get my body right and I’ll strive to bigger things.
“I’ve obviously set goals to make representative honours in the future and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
The comments come on the eve of the Dragons NRL season opener against Brisbane at Jubilee Oval on Thursday night. The match marks the official debut of highly touted recruits Ben Hunt and James Graham, and Aitken’s first competitive game since August.
Aitken’s 2017 campaign ended prematurely after a shoulder dislocation in round 24 forced him to undergo a shoulder reconstruction. The injury came at the end of a frustrating season for Aitken, with the centre playing just 12 games due to hamstring injuries and the shoulder dislocation.
However, the operation provided Aitken with the time to fully overcome the hamstring troubles and he’s confident epidural injections and strength work have him ready to go.
“The shoulder’s good. It’s probably about 95 to 100 per cent, so it’s a little bit achy, but no problems tackling, so I’m ready to go.
“I’ve had two trial games already, so it’s given me a bit of experience there and getting used to the shoulder, and getting my body right, so it’s all good.
“The hamstrings are working well now as well. I’ve got through two trial games and we’re slowly building in, keeping my speed under wraps and making sure we’re getting through everything there. As I said, it’s about getting some consistency in the game and when I do that I reckon I’ll be playing some good footy.”
Overcoming the injury bug, Aitken says, is the key to achieving his State of Origin and Australian representative dreams.
“As long as I get the body right and I’m fit and ready to go, week in, week out, I think the sky is the limit.
“I’ve got to keep working on individual things and obviously when we gel together as a team on the right side, I think we’re only going to get better and help each other get better as well.
“Any kid has [ambitions of playing for NSW], if you play for NSW through the ranks, you always set that goal of playing Origin.
“Obviously I’m worried about the Dragons and letting my footy do the talking through them and if rep honours come along through the years, I’ll be stoked of course.”
If Aitken is able to stay healthy and remain on the paddock, he will have the opportunity to play outside former Bronco Hunt.
“That calibre of player is going to give you clean ball and he’s a leader around the park too, so he’s going to be working well with Gareth Widdop.”