Dyldam Parramatta Eels second-rower Kenny Edwards says his lengthy recovery from injury through last season has boosted his physical and mental strength ahead of the Blue and Gold’s 2016 campaign.

Edwards tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines tournament, requiring a careful rehabilitation program to return to full fitness.

“I was lucky that the trainers really worked with me on my strength and conditioning,” Edwards said.

“I had 9 months to get as strong and big as possible, so I think the hard work last year that me and the trainers put in (sic) means I'm paying the benefits now, I feel a bit stronger and a bit fitter.”

“I had little goals all year last year; I had a three month goal, I had a six month goal, and then I was running marathons, doing 10 kilometre runs, little events that I could tick off each month.”

“I think they really helped with my mindset as well as getting me fitter.”

The second-rower says his individual program led into a bruising pre-season with the Parramatta Eels squad.

“We worked hard together the whole off-season,” Edwards said.

“The culture we are building here … I don't want to mention the word culture, but we feel something special growing here, and I think it comes off the back of hard work. It was enjoyable cause we were all in it together.”

Edwards hasn’t been shy in showing how much he’s enjoying being back on the field with the Blue and Gold, even marking his team’s four-pointers by roping in opposition players for a post-try celebration hug, including North Queensland Cowboys halfback Jonathan Thurston and Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate.

“I feel bad now, but ‘JT’ is an awesome bloke,” Edwards said.

“The first week he was just there, so I grabbed him, then last week obviously I'm pretty close with ‘Hop’ so it was sort of a just getting-cheeky-to-Hop sort of thing. It’s sort of been blown out of proportion a bit the last couple of days, but I find the funny side of it and hopefully other people do, too.”

“I think I’ll keep it to a minimum … probably just keep it to halves and fullbacks,” Edwards joked.

The bond at the Blue and Gold is clear away from the field as well as on it, with Edwards admitting he may also chirp occasionally at halfback Kieran Foran about the media attention the new recruit’s hamstring receives.

“We joke around with him at training and say that he’s got it written in his contract that he just does Captain’s Runs and plays! But he’s been working hard the whole off-season, we could tell how disappointed he was not being able to play Round One,” Edwards said.

“The amount of work he puts in outside of training to get his hamstring right every week, I've never seen anything like it. He works hard all week to be there, so hopefully he is there every week.”

Foran will lead the Eels out as Captain against the Wests Tigers, on Easter Monday, March 28, kicking off at 4pm. Click through for all the game day information, including public transport included in all tickets and Memberships!