Almost six months after fearing his NRL career was over, South Sydney’s Kyle Turner will make a triumphant return this weekend to first grade.
Turner suffered a neck injury in the Indigenous All Stars game in February that forced him to undergo a revolutionary procedure in a bid to save his career.
Coach Michael Maguire has named the 24-year-old on the bench for Sunday afternoon’s clash with Penrith, and teammates believe the second-rower can be a huge weapon for them in the run to the finals.
It will be the first time Turner will pull on a Souths jumper since their 2014 premiership victory.
“He’s another big body and he can go long minutes, so he’s going to be very valuable for us,” veteran John Sutton said on Thursday.
Prop George Burgess said he initially doubted whether Turner could come back from the setback that forced him to consider giving up the game.
But Burgess has seen first hand the progress made by his younger teammate after watching him make his return through their NSW Cup side North Sydney over the past fortnight.
“A few months ago, he was looking a bit dodgy,” Burgess said.
“He just come out of neck surgery and he lost a lot of weight.
“But he’s put in the hours and the work in the gym to get to where he is now – full credit to him.
“He’s been knocking out some big minutes and he’s come up with some big defence. I’m excited to see him back in the red and green this week.”
Last week’s 50-point rout of Newcastle consolidated the reigning premiers’ spot in the top four and with a strong chance of defending their trophy.
But Burgess brushed talk of going back-to-back.
Asked if the team considered themselves a chance of winning a second straight premiership, Burgess said: “I don’t think we are at the minute.
“We just keep narrowing our focus on the little things each week. That’s all we can do at the moment.”
The Rabbitohs’ last loss was a 20-6 hiccup against Penrith in round 17.
“Last time we played them, we didn’t play too well. We’ve just got to make sure we’re training hard and bringing our A-game this week,” Sutton said.