CRONULLA recruit Michael Gordon, restricted to 25 matches in the past two seasons through knee and ankle injuries, insists the nature of the problems that sidelined him did not mess with his head.
The former Penrith star, who represented the NSW Origin team three years ago, was hailed a significant signing by the Sharks, who had galvanised an already strong roster which contained the likes of Paul Gallen and Todd Carney, with Gordon, Luke Lewis, Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan.
While his off-season was a relentless slog of recovery, rehabilitation and regaining his strength, the 29-year-old made it clear his injury-foiled seasons had not troubled him.
''[I've] wondered what I could have done differently, but when I looked at both injuries there was really nothing I could do because they were the result of trauma-related tackles,'' Gordon said. ''It wasn't through a lack of preparation or anything like that, it was through unfortunate tackles and I have had to put that to the back of my mind and start all over again.
''If it was a recurring injury, it might affect you mentally but while a long-term injury can leave you feeling down and out because you are isolated from the main group, you work hard to get back because all footballers want to play. That's why when I came to Cronulla I thought it was really important for me to get a solid preseason behind me, that was one of my main goals.''
Gordon worked hard from the first day he joined the club and said his only break came at Christmas.
He was certain the tough yakka would help him live up to the obvious expectations the Sharks army of supporters had for him to tear opposition defensive lines apart in a similar fashion to what he did for the Panthers.
''I know there is expectation on the club and all the players,'' he said. ''They've recruited well and, while I know there is expectation on me, I try not to put too much pressure on myself even though I know there is going to be that demand for me to perform.
''I don't know if there is a secret [to splitting the defensive line] because I'm not the fittest or the strongest … I just like to go in and play my best for the team. It's the players around me who make it look easier, most of the hard work is done by teammates and I guess I like to try and capitalise on it.''
While Gordon had made it clear he wanted Cronulla's No.1 jumper, he said the only guarantee at Shark Park during the team's 2013 campaign was quality players would miss selection in the top grade.
''I have trained at fullback,'' he said. ''I played half a game there the other night and I'd say next week's trial will go a long way to determining where I'll play. My main concern is to represent the club the best way I can and while the calibre of players we have here does breed confidence, it has also bred a lot of competition.
''There's going to be some good players who'll miss out in round one, and I guess that is a tough question for [coach] Shane Flanagan. While there'll be those good players who'll miss out, the players are pushing each other and that has to be a good thing.''