Kye Rowles has paid tribute to the Hearts medical team after admitting just one small setback in his return from injury would have left his World Cup dreams in tatters.
The Australian defender insists he is 100 per cent ready to face superstars defending champions France in their group opener next Tuesday.
But the 24-year-old admits he doubted his recovery “almost all the time” after having to undergo surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot suffered against St Johnstone on August 28.
The former Central Coast Mariners knew instantly he was in a race against time to get to Qatar.
And, after three outings for the Jambos in the space of a week, culminating in a red card against Livingston last Saturday, Rowles opened up about his fears he might miss something.
When asked if he was worried about not proving his fitness in time, he replied: “Pretty much like all the time. I had to come back super fast and there is always a risk of pushing the limit a little too much.
“I didn’t really have time for even a tiny three or four day setback.
“So hats off to everyone involved for bringing me back to a level of play.
“Now I’m fit and ready, I’m just getting fitter and stronger every day, and sharper as well, so come next Tuesday, I’ll be ready.
“It’s gone from the back of my head now, I’m 100 per cent ready to go. If I get picked, I’ll be ready.
“I feel strong anyway and very fit. The guys (from the medical team) back at Hearts did a really good job of getting me back to the level I needed.
“I’m just excited to hope to get out there and do the best I can.”
Injury aside, Rowles admits the challenge of trying to stop Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema is the perfect way to sharpen the wits ahead of the Socceroos’ tantalizing opener.
He added: “Obviously I guess it’s not the most perfect course for me, but I know once I get my head down and out I don’t focus on the fitness levels.
“I just focus on my work for the team and obviously once you get into the game, and you have people like (Karim) Benzema and (Kylian) Mbappe around you, you don’t have loving time to think about how you feel and stuff like that.
“You just have to do your job and make sure they’re canceled as best you can.
“It’s what you dreamed of when you were a kid, to be honest. To be able to take this opportunity is once in a lifetime.
“And I can pretty much say on behalf of all the boys here that we’re going to take the opportunity that we get with both hands and give nothing away, and give him the best crack we can.
“I think it’s just an incredible opportunity for everyone involved.”