When Forster Tuncurry rugby union club's battle-axe Rob Avard sustained a broken leg last winter, the general assumption was that it was the last the Dolphins would see of him in gold and green.
To widespread disbelief, Avard has not only re-appeared in training gear, but is also running as energetically as ever, looking fitter than in recent seasons and bidding strongly for a place in coach Ron McCarthy's starting XV for the club's first game on Saturday, April 27.
Not a bad showing from a player with approximately 200 first grade games in rugby and rugby league who's approaching 40 years of age.
Now, Avard has achieved an important personal milestone by being voted the Dolphins' club captain by fellow players, recognition the secondary school teacher described as his "greatest honour."
Avard's rugby career did not start so lustrously.
Almost three decades ago, as a schoolboy, he wondered about playing football at all, of any code, when he tore his hamstring off the bone.
"You don't forget that sort of injury," he observed.
"I was running and twisted and thought I heard a shotgun go off. It was the hamstring snapping. It slowed me down for a year or so."
Since then, Avard has played rugby league with the ill-fated Mako Sharks, and rugby union in the Myall Coast club's backline when the club won the Lower Mid North Coast premiership in a major boil-over in 2012.
Four years with the Wallamba Bulls and now 48 games with the Dolphins for three premierships, plus a season off in recuperation last year, and he's champing at the bit for the Kennards Hire premiership to resume on April 27.
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With Forster Tuncurry having the first-round bye, the Dolphins will kick off their season at home at Peter Barclay Field, Tuncurry, against the Manning River Ratz.
Premiership-defenders the Wallamba Bulls will be at home in Nabiac against the Gloucester Cockies, while Wauchope Thunder will likewise be at home against the Old Bar Clams.