Ageing warrior's hunger remains
THE BIG smile - that unmistakable smile - said it all.
For the great Petero Civoniceva, there is nothing like home's warm embrace.
Back at the Brisbane Broncos, the club that launched the veteran Australian and Queensland front-rower's celebrated career, Civoniceva was effusive yesterday in describing his joy at being back at Red Hill after four seasons with Penrith.
Age may have wearied the 35-year-old juggernaut somewhat - "it's been tough, real tough trying to keep up with the young blokes (at pre-season training)" - but the challenge of the upcoming season is one he eagerly awaits.
It is in his DNA. Like an ageing ring warrior, he reckons he still has a few more rounds left in him.
Australia's most experienced forward, with 45 Tests to his name, is about to embark on his 15th NRL season.
Speaking at a Men of League Foundation luncheon at the Mooloolaba surf club, a typically relaxed Civoniceva spoke about the joy of being back at the Broncos.
The NRL's most capped forward played 215 times for the club between 1998 and 2007, before recording 74 matches at the Panthers.
"I think for myself, my wife and my four kids, after four years at Penrith it's just really refreshing to be back home now," he said.
"It throws at me, I guess, new challenges with the year ahead with the Broncos, but they're challenges I'm looking forward to."
Despite his glowing resume, Civoniceva takes nothing for granted when it comes to his career. In large part, that is why he has been so successful.
Like he has done each pre-season, he approaches his coveted job knowing others want it badly.
"I think if you don't go in with that attitude, you know, you're a beaten man," he said.
Civoniceva realises there is a chance his body could suddenly say "enough is enough" next season.
At the moment, however, he feels "hungry" and still has "that desire to be out there playing".
"So I'm hopeful of playing some good, consistent football and it should be right," he said.
At some stage early next season, Civoniceva said he would sit down to discuss his State of Origin future with Queensland coach Mal Meninga.
If it is decided 30 Origin games for Queensland over 11 mostly golden years is enough, it will also draw the curtain on his Australian international career.
"I still feel I have something to offer there … (but) if I'm going to retire from rep football, obviously it's a good time to do it," he said.
"We've got some great talent coming through at the moment, great forwards coming through."
Civoniceva's return to the Broncos has coincided with champion five-eighth Darren Lockyer's retirement.
But despite the massive hole left by Lockyer's departure, the front-row colossus is confident the club can add to its six premierships next season after going within one game of making the 2011 grand final.
He is also confident the club's Bribie Island products, centre Jack Reed and utility Matt Gillett, will continue to impress in 2012.
"I think he's (Gillett) an amazing talent," Civoniceva said.