Melbourne star Harry Grant admits he's struggled mentally this season after knee and hamstring injuries have reduced him to just eight NRL games.
The 2020 rookie of the year was set for a huge season with the Storm before suffering a knee injury during the pre-season that delayed his start.
He managed five games before a troublesome hamstring threw him off course again, ruling him out of the last two games of the State of Origin series, and restricting him to just three NRL games in the past three months.
But after his triumphant return against Penrith last weekend, the 23-year-old is philosophical about how far he had come.
"It's been tough mentally. You're a footballer so you want to be not he field and when you're not playing it's hard to feel like you're a part of that," he said on Tuesday.
"The boys have achieved a lot over the past couple of months and it's hard to really celebrate that success when you're in and out.
"You add in the stress of the COVID situation with the bubble.
"In saying that, I'm still lucky I've got all my teammates around me and I still get to play footy.
"There's a lot of people doing it a lot tougher than us doing intense lockdowns around the country so it puts it in perspective.
"It's challenging at times but there's always people doing it tougher.
"It's important to be there for your loved ones because everyone is going through a tough time at the moment."
Grant has returned to a Storm side riding high on a 16-game winning streak as they charge towards the minor premiership.
However, that success means Grant has given up hope of snatching back the starting No.9 position from Brandon Smith.
"I think 'Cheese' has proved himself as a starter, he does all the tough stuff and I come on and he's bashed a few people for me and he's taken the sting out of the game," Grant said.
"I'm not sure which way (Craig Bellamy) is going to go in terms of minutes for Brandon and I, but what he's done over the last couple of months he's really cemented himself as a starting player. That's what (Smith) wants at this club.
"We both want to start but I don't really have a leg to stand on, he's played every game this season."
Australian Associated Press