Jordan Rapana insists he would have found a way to be back playing in the NRL by now even if the coronavirus hadn’t struck down Japanese rugby.
Rapana had his best game back for the Raiders in Saturday night’s win over the Wests Tigers, and now appears to have reclaimed his wing spot for Canberra.
It comes after at one stage late last season it appeared the try-scoring machine had possibly played his last game in Canberra colours.
Rapana made clear to Raiders officials when he left he wanted to return later in 2020, with the Japanese Top League competition scheduled to end in May.
But rumours circulated the NRL would not allow him to return mid-season, after leaving for the 15-man code overseas.
However, Rapana insisted he was going to make sure that wasn’t the case, checking that his comeback couldn’t be stopped regardless.
“If this season had gone ahead it would have finished in May. And I had full intentions of (coming back),” he said.
“We had unfinished business here and I made that known to Ricky.
“I was off contract … and (the NRL) had no right to stop me. If I had an extra year on my deal and left, that makes sense.
“But I was a free agent. I was only on a one-year deal. Whether I go and be a plumber or a sparky, I could come back.
“I always knew I would be able to come back.”
The 30-year-old has also already declared he’ll now stay put in the NRL for the rest of his career, desperate to convince Canberra to extend his stay beyond this year.
But the return has not been easy.
He had virtually no pre-season in Japan, only arriving there in December ahead of the competition’s January start following the Raiders’ grand final appearance and his wedding.
He has now got his weight back to 104kg, slightly above what he was playing at last year but pushing close to full fitness.
“Union is a different game and outside backs wouldn’t cover anywhere near the amount of metres as you would in league.
“Different training and a lot more weight based training, I definitely put on a few kilos.
“Those few weeks before the (NRL) season restarted were huge for me.”
The former Kiwi Test star can, however, see an upside believing his extra muscle mass is giving him the chance to bust through even more tackles.
He is also comfortable playing on the left wing, slotting in outside Jarrod Croker after playing on the right for the vast majority of his NRL career.
“It’s my preferred side,” he said.
I always played on the left growing up. But when I came to the club Edrick Lee was here so I got thrown on the right.”