18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
The nation's media descended on Kingston Park on Tuesday for the annual press day, but while much of the questioning dwelt on his recovery from shoulder and neck injuries, he chose instead to look to the future, and his renewed enthusiasm for the game.
"Enjoyment is going to be a massive part of it," says Wilkinson, whose Falcons campaign was cut short after leaving the field against Northampton at Kingston Park. But after a full pre-season, including full contact training, the fun factor is big on the agenda.
"The great thing about playing a team sport is the memories you can take from it. I've had some great experiences and I can say I've been involved in some wonderful things, but I can't tell you that I've smiled my way through it. Maybe I want to do a bit more of that, and if you enjoy something you tend to do it better.
"Having not had a break for a while, it's given me great enthusiasm and real motivation, and I've come back with a real excitement for the game. I've said before that I want to enjoy my rugby, and having been out for so long, I've learnt that I really need to enjoy what I'm doing more, instead of seeing the pressure too much.
"I really just want to go out there and concentrate on making the most of the time I've got. This year has told me that you never know quite when the finish line is for you, and for me it could have been March of this year."
While the scare stories may suggest otherwise, Wilkinson has in fact been training fully at the club since his operation in March, and insists that he is ready for action going into the new campaign.
"I've been training hard and we've been doing full contact. I've now given the shoulder every test it needs, and I'm happy with it."
The World Cup winner candidly discusses the difficult time he went through during his lay-off, revealing: "It's obviously something I've not been through before, so it's been an up-and-down experience.
"The up part came when I accepted that I was going to be out for a while, and it was a lot easier when I had an estimated timescale in my head. Up until April or May I wasn't really sure if I could play in a couple of weeks or whether it would have to wait until next season.
"It was an interesting experience, watching the guys playing from the sidelines, but undoubtedly one that I've taken a lot from.
"There was a threat that the nerve was too damaged and didn't want to come back, and that was scary at the time, but all the tests showed that it will, in time. In the period while that was happening it was quite frightening, but that was only for about three weeks in total, and there's been a sharp improvement since then which has meant I haven't looked back."
Wilkinson also reveals the support he has received from the club, as well as those close to him.
"During the whole time I had great help from the Falcons, my friends and my family. I trained from pretty much two days after my operation, right through until when I had a week away in the summer. Then when I came back from that week away it was straight back into it again
"Having trained every day and had goals in my mind, I was able to keep going. I didn't stop to think about it too much. Had I done so, then it could have been quite a down period, but with the likes of Steve Black around they kept me very upbeat and gave me things to do.
"The whole idea of the way I've been training is that I come back stronger and fitter, so that I can try and improve as a player. I want to go back and get more strength in the shoulder than I had before the injury, so that I can go out there and play the way I do. I want to enjoy every game, and I can only do that if I can react instinctively to what happens on the field. That's the way I play the game."
The 25-year-old also explains the tough time he went through during the Six Nations, watching from the sidelines as France took the Grand Slam.
"The lowest point was probably realising that it was going to be a long haul of not being able to play. It was frustrating not being able to leave the World Cup behind because I couldn't get on the field and move away from it. I was away from the England squad during the Six Nations, and I went through a period of not really accepting it.
"I hadn't distanced myself from what was going on, to get a decent perspective on things and an idea of which direction I was going in."
However, he insists that he is now back, refocused and ready for what lies ahead.
"During my time away my whole aim has been to help the guys from the sidelines, but in the background I've been preparing to become fitter, stronger and wiser. I want to get better each time I play, and that means I want to become a better player than what I was before the injury.
"At the same time, it's a relatively fresh start for me. I've been out a long time and I want to come back and earn my place in the team, as well as earning the respect of my team-mates and coaches again just like any other player coming into the squad.
"I'm just happy to be back in one sense, but I've now got to go back and show it on the field. I'm keen to do that, but I'm going to have to find my way around from game one.
"The aim is to come back better, but I can't predict the future. I'm starting off with a fairly blank sheet of paper, and I've just got to go out there and put into practice what I've been doing in training."
Wilkinson forms part of a Falcons squad showing great forward thinking with a string of big signings in the wake of their Powergen Cup success, and the club's recruitment has not gone unnoticed.
"I want to enjoy playing with a great squad and see where it takes us," he says.
"The ambition in myself and in everyone at this club is fantastic. That's one of the main attractions of being here. People want to go out and play great rugby. The ethics in training and the ethics in the way the boys look after themselves is outstanding.
"The set-up as a club at the moment is brilliant. Now we have to learn to play together as a team, and I'll learn from each game along with the other guys."
One name to have caught the eye amid the summer spending is that of Australian great Matthew Burke, who, like Wilkinson, possesses a prodigious boot on the big stage.
"He's a world class kicker, a World Cup winner and his goal kicking is supreme enough to take him to the top of the leader board for current Test players.
"He's the sort of person we want at the club - immensely talented, mentally strong and with a perfect ethos. That's why he's been such a success, and it's a privilege for all of us to be looking forward to playing in the same team as him."
As for the Falcons' prospects for the coming campaign, Wilkinson is not short of optimism, having already helped the club to a Premiership title back in 1997/8.
"I was involved in my first year when we won the title, managing to find my way on to the field for the second half of that season, and I really enjoyed seeing what it was like to win.
"While you can't necessarily set yourself specific targets, everyone knows what they're playing for. You play to win every game, to play your part in winning every game, and in doing so to find yourself at the top of the league at the end of the season so that you can feel that excitement of being crowned the best team in England.
"Seeing teams like London Wasps doing well in Europe, that's what rugby is all about, and we're building towards that here at Newcastle. We're trying to find our way there, and we want to bring that success back to the north-east.
"There's no substitute for that feeling, and I knew that when I watched the team go on a lap of honour after winning the Powergen Cup, having not played in any of the games myself. You realise just how much you want to be a part of it, and winning the Premiership to me is everything.
"The World Cup was fantastic, but that's gone now. The World Cup was a tick in a box, and an ambition accomplished, but there'll be another World Cup in 2007, and Lions tours to get on.
"As you continue to play and put yourself on to the field under pressure to perform for your team, that just takes over from what you've done before.
"Newcastle are in the Premiership and the Heineken Cup now, so we have all these things to fight for."