Titans' Hipgrave uses NRL time-out wisely

Murray Wenzel
Keegan Hipgrave is close to making an NRL return for the Gold Coast after an injury-enforced layoff

A trio of head knocks forced Keegan Hipgrave to the NRL sidelines last year but the Gold Coast hard man has spent the time studying his own game in a bid to return a more complete player in 2020.

The Titans' enforcer was grounded on doctors' advice for a minimum of six months and hasn't played since last June.

It meant almost eight months of non-contact training but the 23-year-old has recently been given the all-clear to resume full contact and could feature again as early as the second round next weekend.

While admitting it was "only human" to have initial doubts about his career, the backrower said he quickly came to terms with the predicament and started planning ahead.

"I had a lot of time to reflect, so I just went back through all the tape of my runs, defence and support play," he told AAP.

"I'll concentrate on effective tackling and I want to be supporting if someone goes through the line.

"I never took playing in the NRL for granted, but I certainly appreciate it so much more now and I'm not scared to go back into contact ... if anything I'm looking forward to it."

Hipgrave's studious approach defies his furious on-field persona but is in line with the man he is away from the field.

Well-spoken and switched on, Hipgrave also completed his business degree during his enforced break.

Contact sports across the world are now tuned into the dangers of concussion after the discovery of the degenerative brain condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in deceased former players.

Hipgrave has worked to ensure his tackling technique is sound though, confident he can balance the fire and ice in his game to enjoy a long NRL career.

"I think that (balance) just comes with years playing the game," he said.

"You just pick your moments.

"I've done a lot of running too, so am a few kilograms lighter and that will help me get around the park a bit easier as well."

Last year's wooden spooners begin their season - and life under new coach Justin Holbrook - in Canberra on Friday before hosting Parramatta next Sunday.