Two months ago Corey Oates momentarily thought his career was over, so to enact his match-day ritual last week at Suncorp Stadium was a slice of heaven in what he calls his "season from hell".
The 25-year-old feared he had suffered a compound fracture of the femur in round 10 against the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval but was later diagnosed with a large haematoma and a deep gash to his leg.
After six weeks of recovery there was a moment at the start of last week's 25-12 loss to the Panthers that he savoured more than most.
"I always do a little lap when I run out and it put a big smile on my face to do that again against Penrith last week. It felt really good just to know that I was doing it all again," Oates told NRL.com.
"When I run out I am always big on looking at the supporters in the crowd, taking it all in and realising why playing is so enjoyable.
"I think back to when I was laying there on the ground at Leichhardt Oval and the Tigers doctor and everyone thought the worst had happened, which was a compound fracture, so I freaked out.
"One of the trainers from the Broncos was with me and we both thought I was done. In my head at that moment I thought my career was over, so when I got the scans it was great to know the bone was still intact."
In a bizarre twist, Oates's injuries had been inflicted by his own boot.
"I had two cuts, both about 50 millimetres deep. One was as round as a fifty cent piece and fairly disgusting," he said.
"The other one was the same width as my boot stud, which is what caused it. It was just one of those freak things. It was my own boot that did it."
Despite nine surgeries on various parts of his body by the age of 20, Oates has been remarkably resilient. In six full seasons from 2014 until 2019 he played at least 20 games each year, so missing six rounds was "weird".
Now, after a club record eight losses in a row, he just wants to sing the team song again, starting with the clash with the Titans on Saturday night.
"It would be good to finish the year well because it has been the season from hell with everything on and off the field," Oates said.
"To get a few wins and keep the supporters' interest for next year is important to me. I want to let them know that we are trying hard to finish the season with two or three wins because the way the club has gone this year has really hurt me."
Titans v Broncos - Round 18
If being 15th on the ladder wasn't bad enough the prolonged pressure on the club before former coach Anthony Seibold's ultimate exit also took its toll.
"A decision needed to be made, and the players were starting to think they weren't being thought about a little bit," Oates said.
"We are the ones that have to go out there and perform each week and everything happening behind the scenes made it tough.
"Everyone says to try and shut that stuff out but when it is happening every day it is hard to do.
"You could say it was relief [when Seibold left], but it was more about getting a clear pathway and talking about the games and playing rather than the outside noise."
Oates said he would welcome either former Cowboys premiership-winner Paul Green or Maroons mentor Kevin Walters as coach next year.
Fifita primed for Titans clash
"I think Greeny's resume speaks for itself and Kevvie has done a great job with the Origin team and his history with the club speaks for itself too," Oates said.
"Either way is great. Everyone is saying Kevvie, with his history here, and I think that is what the club has lost – the history and what it really means to put the jersey on."
Oates is determined to retain his Maroons jersey for the State of Origin series in November but is not presuming anything.
"I haven't done much this year. It has been my worst year by a long shot so I want to finish the season at the Broncos well and what comes off that is a bonus," he said.
"I love Origin and playing for my state every year."