John Ledger HULL full-back Steve Prescott is resigned to missing the start of the Super League season after undergoing a second operation on the knee he fractured last July.
However, the extended lay-off has left the 29-year-old far from despondent with the specialists' prognosis on the injury allaying fears that it might have ended his career.
Prescott, who will be 30 on Boxing Day, had made good progress after rejoining the club for pre-season training last month but broke down within days of preparations being switched to the track.
"We got him running in a straight line but as soon as he changed direction the discomfort became too much," explained Hull's first-team coach John Kear.
"We feared the worst but Steve had keyhole surgery which revealed that his fractured kneecap has totally healed. The only problem was his cartilage but that has now been cleaned and he's going to make a full recovery.
"Steve knows in his own head that he will play again and that's half the battle. We're expecting another big season from him and are looking forward to seeing him back on the field."
Prescott was Hull's leading scorer with 13 tries and 71 goals from 16 appearances when he suffered the injury representing Lancashire in the Origin Game against Yorkshire at Odsal.
In his absence, Hull will start the season with new recruit Shaun Briscoe, the 20-year-old who joined them last month from Wigan, in the full-back role.
"Shaun has already proved himself as one of the best young players in the competition, he's had a great schooling at Wigan and the competition for a starting place between him and Steve can only bring the best out of both players," added Kear.
Hull's overseas contingent of Michael Eagar, Richie Barnett, Jason Smith, Scott Logan, Shayne McMenemy and Paul McNicholas have yet to return from Down Under but all are expected to feature in the friendly against Hull KR next month.
That match will also see debuts for the four players who have been getting their first taste of full-time training in recent weeks: former Featherstone duo Richard Whiting and Andy Bailey, former Gateshead winger Richie Barnett and Danny Hill, who has been promoted from Hull's Academy team.
"The work we have been doing has been a bit of a shock to them all but they've responded well," said Kear.
Widnes Vikings have bolstered their squad by signing 19-year-old prop Bruce Johnson from St Helens and 16-year-old second row Adam Sidlow from Wigan.