This article first appeared on NRL.com.
It was the NRL All Stars clash that meant so much more for Rabbitohs back-rower Kyle Turner.
The 24-year-old made a comeback to the representative arena for the Indigenous side a fortnight ago after suffering a career-threatening neck injury in his first appearance back in 2015.
Turner required disc replacement surgery that ruled him out for over five months and endured a series of tests and advice from medical experts along the way.
In a boost for the Coonabarabran junior, he went on to play 23 out of a possible 24 games last season for Souths and while the scars still remain his rugby league career is well and truly back on track.
"That was my main focus last year, to try and get a full year out injury-free which I have. I'm feeling strong in the neck and just looking to have another big year," Turner told NRL.com.
"The surgeon gave me the all clear to get rid of it (the neck guard) but it's more a precautionary thing and eases my mind a bit to know I have it there, so I think I'll have it there for the rest of my career."
Playing in the Indigenous All Stars side was an opportunity for Turner to mix with some of the stars of the game once again including Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston, while also preparing for the year ahead after a strong pre-season.
"It was amazing, it was crazy to see how skilful and how off the cuff the boys can play," he said.
"Some of the tries JT set up and some of the kicks from nothing – it's unbelievable to watch and even just being on his team.
"I've just been trying to get bigger and stronger in the gym, out on the field and blow a few cobwebs out in the All Stars game, I felt pretty fit."
With the return of John Sutton, who missed half of last season, and with Newcastle recruit Robbie Rochow vying for a spot in the forward pack, the competition for positions has heated up at Redfern.
"We've also got young guys like Angus Crichton pushing for a chance and it makes training out there competitive," Turner said. "You sort of want to mentor those blokes but they're pushing for your spot in the side, too."
No position at Souths has received more attention than in the hooking department with Robbie Farah and Damien Cook fighting it out for the starting role, a decision Turner is glad he doesn't have to make.
"We've got two world-class hookers and it's going to be hard to pick who's going to start and who comes off the bench but they've both trained well and both deserve a spot in the side," he said.
"It's just really competitive and we've got a lot of depth, everyone's training well so if anyone gets injured there is someone who can slot in and do a job."