Fellow Kiwi international Ben Matulino, another prop signed for monster money by the Tigers, had already reloaded the club’s coffers after being medically retired a year early last October because of a knee injury.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire welcomed the return of all his players this week but singled out Packer, who was finally able to hit top gear and edge closer to a top-flight return.
“He’s back running and it’s the best he’s run since I’ve been at the club,” Maguire told the Herald.
“He hasn’t been able to run for about 16 months. I really hope for his sake he can get back because he’s already gone through a long journey to get to where he is now.
“He will be another great addition if we can get him playing his best footy.
“He’s quietly going about what he’s doing. I won’t even try and guess when he’ll return, but the best thing right now is he’s running without pain. He’ll start ball-work with us next week.”
Packer served a year in jail for assault but was thrown an NRL lifeline by St George Illawarra before being financially rewarded by the Tigers for turning his life around. He is also close to completing an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
The joint venture has recruited fellow New Zealand prop Zane Musgrove, Thomas Mikaele is fit again and Josh Aloiai, 24, and Alex Twal, 23, have both played more than 50 NRL games and will benefit from the experience of playing alongside Packer.
Melbourne dummy-half addition Harry Grant has also impressed at Concord, even though club pin-up Benji Marshall said this week the hooker was beaten in a short foot race by 107kg Aloiai.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.