FORMER Saints prop Luke Thompson is relishing his first match for Trent Barrett’s new-look Canterbury Bulldogs team against Melbourne on Saturday after a serving a four-match suspension.

Thompson, who joined the Bulldogs from Saints midway through last season, has endured a frustrating introduction to the NRL after being forced to live on his own due to the strict bio-security protocols in place upon his arrival and receiving the four-match ban for an eye-gouge in the last round.

However, Thompson has finally had the opportunity the travel after being reunited with his partner during the off-season and has been preparing for his return in Saturday’s match against the Storm at Stadium Australia.

“It was a bit frustrating that everyone was getting back to playing and I had to miss out for a few weeks but I just kept training and treated it like an extended pre-season,” Thompson said.

“I was pretty proud of what I did last year considering the challenges that I had; being sat in my house in England for three months in lockdown, training on my own and then sat in a hotel room for two weeks [of quarantine] in Melbourne, where I couldn’t really do too much.

“I was thrown straight in in Brisbane and played 10 games after that. Last year had its challenges but I am buzzing to play after the pre-season I have had.”

With NRL players effectively restricted to home unless they were going to training or play a match, Thompson did not have the opportunity to socialise with his new team-mates away from their Belmore Oval training base.

“The bubble was tough because you come to another country on the other side of the world and you want to get out and have a look around but I couldn’t really go anywhere,” he said.

“But I was grateful that I got to come out here and do my job. If I was back in Engalnd, I would have been just sat in my house, not doing anything.

“In the off-season I got the missus out and we went t away a few times. We went to Orange for a few days, visited some vineyards and we went up to Nelson Bay. “I got [sun]burnt to death so I have to be careful but it was awesome.

"It is just good having someone at home when I get home. I can’t thank the club enough for getting her out here.”