The long wait is almost over for North Queensland recruit Esan Marsters.
After making the agonising decision to miss New Zealand's 2019 schedule and undergo ankle surgery, Cowboys centre Marsters says he is ready to make up for lost time at this week's NRL Nines in Perth.
While Marsters was troubled by a right ankle complaint throughout 2019 at former club Wests Tigers, he was "gutted" after making the call to go under the knife and skip the inaugural World Cup Nines last October as well as the Kiwis' Tests against Australia and Great Britain.
Now fully fit, Marsters hopes to hit the ground running at the Nines where he will don the Cowboys colours for the first time.
"It has been a long pre-season," he said.
"I missed the end-of-year Tests so I could have a break and get myself right for the Cowboys and I felt like I have done that now.
"Hopefully I can now put all this hard work onto the field (at Nines) and it (hard work) shows."
Marsters admits to counting down the days to making his Cowboys debut after finally overcoming his ankle complaint.
There was a question mark over Marsters' availability when he opted to go under the knife after being released from the final year of his Tigers deal and signing a three-season Cowboys contract last October.
But Marsters said he had always planned to mark his injury return at the Nines.
"It was always a priority for me to be back for the Nines," the goal kicking centre said.
"I am pretty happy I am about to play my first game for the Cowboys.
"I can move a lot better now with my ankle so it would be good to play some minutes and get the ball in my hands.
"Plus I reckon the (Cowboys) colours look pretty good on me."
Marsters says he has a pretty simple game plan for scoring tries at the Nines - follow blockbusting back-rower Jason Taumalolo who will lead the Cowboys in Perth.
"Hopefully when he gets the ball he can take on five guys and I can run off the back of that," he laughed.
The Cowboys will hope Taumalolo and Marsters fire - they are in arguably the Nines' toughest pool after being grouped with Melbourne, Brisbane and Manly.