Sonny Bill Williams has backed himself to time his run perfectly and be at full fitness on the eve of the NRL's finals, predicting it will take a couple of weeks to find his feet again.
Williams got through a safe 14-minute stint in his Sydney Roosters return on Saturday night, which doubled as his first match in any league since March.
The 35-year-old admitted he was "buggered" after coming off, playing in the middle for the first time in 13 years at lock.
"Experience has shown me it will take me a couple of weeks," Williams said.
"I was buggered. It was to be expected. I haven't played in six months and I'd only had a couple of weeks training.
"Since I've got that (game) out of the way and I've blown out the cobwebs, God willing I'll start to find my feet in a couple of weeks."
Williams also knows he has walked back into a far-quicker game than the one he left.
Saturday night's match had 64 more play-the-balls than his previous game back in 2014, an increase of 25 per cent.
"The big difference for me is when the bell rings," he said.
"That has quickened the game (with set re-starts) , but it's also helped the game evolve a bit into more free-flowing footy."
The Roosters' 18-6 win moved them one step closer to the top four, making their path to a third straight title that little bit clearer.
Off the field, Williams' return has already proven a success.
There was more than 17,000 mentions of his name across various media forms in the lead up to the match, with the NRL valuing it at $32 million in exposure.
"Anyone who says they don't get nervous is telling you lies," he said.
"I don't love the feeling, but I know I'm alive when I'm nervous.
"Going through those times and then sitting in the sheds with the lads afterwards, knowing you put in a good performance out there, that's something I'll miss once I retire."
Where Williams plays next will now be the point of interest.
A second-rower through all of his NRL career and a centre in his rugby union career, Saturday night was his first foray into the middle since June 2007.
Ideally, he would fit back onto the Roosters' edge, but the man himself knows it's not that easy.
Kangaroos captain Boyd Cordner is on one, and State of Origin second rower Angus Crichton traditionally plays on the other.
However, even he was forced into the middle on Saturday night in his return from a knee injury, with in-form Tongan international Sitili Tupouniua playing 80 minutes on the right.
"I'm under no illusions coming into this star-studded side," Williams said.
"The biggest challenge is making the top 17, and if I do I don't get the choice if it's the middle or an edge.
"It's whatever is best for the team. I'll play my part and if it's in the middle or not so be it."
© AAP 2020