ROHAN Toft was on the comeback from a severe leg injury when he was told he wouldn't be named in Hastings Valley's reserve grade grand final side last year.
Twelve months on, the 21-year-old will have an important role to play when he lines up on the wing for the Vikings in Saturday's Upper Mid North Coast Rugby Union grand final clash with Coffs Harbour.
Toft watched last year's grand final day action from the other side of the sideline alongside his dad after spending three quarters of the season recovering from a broken fibula.
While he admits it was disappointing not to play in the biggest match of the season, Toft knew the reasons for it.
He had only played a handful of games.
"When you're coming back (from injury) in your first season in a club where you aren't too well-known, to try and get a run was difficult," he said.
"It was disappointing, but it was somewhat warranted."
After hitting the ground running in the pre-season back in October, Toft then went about creating a fitness program to make himself stronger.
I put a lot of work in at the gym over the off-season to try and get a bit of size about me to make myself harder to tackle and a bit more confident on the field.Rohan Toft
It was hoped he could earn the respect of his new teammates and force his way into the first grade side.
"I took that disappointment and brought it to pre-season where I worked hard through the summer with Kabes and Chrisso and the coaching staff down here," he said.
"I put a lot of work in at the gym over the off-season to try and get a bit of size about me to make myself harder to tackle and a bit more confident on the field."
Toft admitted he was excited about running out in his first grand final with the club at a venue that always pulled a crowd.
"The guys get a good tunnel going on and there's nothing quite like running through it," he said.
"The major semi was the first final I played, so to have such a crowd was incredible.
"You don't get that with junior footy so that's what I'm looking forward to the most - just running out and seeing the crowd."
I try not to get too caught up in expectation.Rohan Toft
When asked about the weight of expectation that will be on the Vikings shoulders come game day, the winger said he tried to block it all out.
The focus was on what he could control.
"I try not to get too caught up in expectations," he said.
"I just focus on what I need to do and think really hard the night before and on the day of just isolating a few things in my game to work on.
"I'll just make sure I'm making my tackles and catching the footy when I need to."
And was there anything specific he wanted to have achieved by 5pm on Saturday?
"I'm keen to get stuck in and make a difference," he said.
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