Sonny Bill Williams' body is better equipped now to deal with the rigours of league than in his first stint in the sport, says former Canterbury doctor Hugh Hazard.
It has been five years since Williams last played in the NRL and his profile will make him a target for opposition defences upon his return. The former Bulldog struggled with injury early in his first-grade career and he is returning from a pectoral injury.
However, Hazard believes the 27-year-old is in better shape physically now to cope with the traffic that will be directed his way.
"Absolutely. He's not a boy any more, is he?" Hazard said. "He's a man now. He's had long years of learning how to prepare for various endeavours.
"It will be interesting. He didn't get tackled much in rugby union and this will be different.
"He's a very athletic kid. He's a gifted athlete and it won't take him very long. In his first couple of games he might struggle with the impact, that's all.
"He's very fit from his fighting and all the other things he's been doing. I don't think he'll be found wanting but it might take him a couple of games."
The dual international's first major league injury was a dislocated shoulder suffered while playing for NSW Residents as a teenager. There have been other setbacks, including knee and back problems. The shoulder charge, his trademark move which has caused injury to both himself and his opponents, has been rubbed out for this season.
Hazard said that many of Williams' early injury setbacks may have partly been the result of growing pains.
"He grew very rapidly, at one time he went up about two or three inches in six months," he said. "He did have a few injuries but nothing that wasn't manageable."
Williams' preparation for his NRL return has been unique. The former All Black joined his Roosters teammates late in pre-season preparations due to his boxing commitments and a pectoral injury.
However, Hazard believes it won't hamper his return.
"He knows how to look after himself," he said.