Former Australia winger Ben Tune has set his sights on a return to the Queensland Reds line-up in time to face the New South Wales Waratahs in the opening round of the 2006 Super 14.
Having gone under the knife yet again in October to have more corrective surgery to his knee, on some cartilage that needed to be repaired, Tune expects to be running again early in the New Year ahead of a planned return to the field in February.
"It might be optimistic but that’s what I’m planning for," Tune said.
"It’s still two months away but I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t back in the full swing of things by then. I’m quietly confident I’ll be playing Round One of the Super 14s.
"Realistically I’m not going to be rushing back to play any of the trial games.
"But it might be the case that if I’m lacking any match fitness I might play half a game in Round One and then I’ll go from there."
Before he resumes running Tune has been rebuilding his strength in the gym and added that, while plenty are ready to write off the Reds’ chances, he is buoyed by the presence of several new players at Suncorp Stadium.
"There’s no doubt, we’ve lost 10, 11 guys all up to NSW, the Brumbies and Perth, and that’s left a pretty big gap to try and fill," said the former Wallaby.
"And we’ve filled that mostly by picking potential talent and that talent is going to take a while to mature and hit their peak. So in the short-term, we’ll probably be going through a bit of a development period.
"We, internally, have a goal where this year, we want to be the best-placed Australian Super 14 team, with a view by 2010 to win the Super 14s. So we’re looking fairly long-term with the squad that we’ve got.
"I think that’s important, I think that it will take a while. We’ve got a really good nucleus of talent. It’s just going to take a while for these guys to develop."