It's been a long six weeks for James Smart, but the wait is finally over just in time to line up in the grand final.
The former Tigers premiership-winning captain-coach has missed their last four games with a broken thumb.
It wasn't quite right to take on Tumut in the qualifying final a fortnight ago, but Gundagai's win eased plenty of pressure the 30-year-old was putting on himself.
"It certainly needed the time and the boys going through early certainly helped the cause," Smart said.
"It helped me ease back off it and give it the little bit more rest that it needed.
"But I got through training really well (on Tuesday night), did all the contact with the boys and it has pulled up well."
Smart returns at fullback for the clash with Tumut at Equex Centre on Sunday with Dane O'Hehir shifting back into the centres while Damian Willis drops to the bench.
With the changes needed to make way for his return, the 30-year-old is confident he's pushed himself for the right reasons.
"I was putting a bit of pressure on myself to get back early," he said.
"Most players try to look after yourself to get back as early as you can but especially with the position I play I needed to make sure if I do take to the field that I can do the job for the boys and don't let them down.
"It's been my sole focus this week.
"If I make myself available to play I have to make sure I can do the job and I 100 per cent feel as though I can."
Gundagai crashed out of last year's finals series after taking the minor premiership.
Smart missed a large part of the season but returned for the back end of their campaign.
He's noticed a real difference in this shortened season.
"We're playing a much more grinding version of footy this year," Smart said.
"The results speak for itself and all of our games against Tumut have been really tight while the games we played last year were close, they were high-scoring sorts of games."
However he believes both teams have strengthened particularly with the likes of Derek Hay and Aisea Taholo linking with the Tigers.
It sets things up for a massive game on Sunday.
"I definitely think the blokes we've brought into the squad this year have just added a little bit of energy to the side that we might have been missing last year," Smart said.
"They've had a huge influence on the team this year."