Fast-forward to the end of 2023 and the rangy Eels star had managed just 10 appearances all season, dealing with a litany of injury setbacks that brought a temporary end to the best run of his rugby league career.
The 29-year-old suffered a broken jaw, dislocated elbow and torn hamstring during a horror campaign, forcing Lane to watch from the sidelines as his teammates struggled to perform and ultimately missed the NRL finals.
And while the physical issues were one thing, Lane admitted the toll of sitting back as the Eels lost game after game in crucial parts of the season was “crap” and “difficult”.
“I’m a pretty relaxed person, so I can just sit there and not really feel any emotion – you either win or you lose,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“It was crap and the more difficult thing was seeing the boys after the games and around training, being frustrated about things that sometimes we couldn’t control.
“I kind of understood that it’s part of the game, but I’d never really experienced it before.
“It’s a bit different once you go through it, you just don’t feel like a football player anymore. You step out onto the field and you don’t have that same edge, you feel a bit out of place and don’t know how to run the same lines and tackle the same.
“You miss all those reps and sets that get you towards being the player that you are – it was quite difficult in that regard.”
Lane is signed with Parramatta for at least another two years and remains one of the club’s most important players, with his size and offloading ability on the edge – as well as his combination with Dylan Brown – proving to be an invaluable asset for the side.
But in a candid reflection upon his recent injury woes, Lane acknowledged that he needs to capitalise on the prime years.
“After a few injuries last year, the body is feeling not too bad, considering they were pretty serious injuries,” he said.
“The body never gets any better really over the years, this is my 10th or 11th year as a professional – they mount up and you feel them. You’ve got to make the most of the time that you have in your prime. I try to take every setback as a lesson learned.
Watch the NRL All Stars clash on Friday February 16 live and free on Nine and 9Now
“I think the reason why I was able to get into such good form is because I was able to play every minute of that year, just about. I didn’t start out the 2022 season all that well, it just gradually happened as I built a better combination with Dylan.
“You just kind of have that extra skip in your step when you know you can do this week-in and week-out. You have that extra bit of confidence and experience, and I think I just need to get on the field and play footy.”
While his hopes of NSW selection or premiership glory were dashed last year due to injury, Lane is now focused on helping the blue and gold back into the top-eight, with fellow back-rower Ryan Matterson and the aforementioned Brown also slated for big seasons after spending large chunks of last year on the sidelines.
Parramatta will kick off their season against old rivals Canterbury on March 9.