Kyle Turner wasn’t expecting Wayne Bennett to thrust him into the centres this season but the 27-year-old also didn’t know if he had a future at South Sydney before the arrival of the super coach.
Turner, who was a member of the 2014 premiership-winning team and represented the Indigenous All Stars in 2015, was on the outer during Anthony Seibold’s stint as Souths coach and played just one NRL match under the now Brisbane mentor.
Super League clubs believed he wasn’t part of Seibold’s plans, with Leeds and London reportedly showing some interest but Bennett promised him an opportunity and Turner has now emerged as his first-choice left centre option after the injury to Braidon Burns and retirement of Greg Inglis.
Turner filled the role after Burns was injured in the round-three defeat of Gold Coast and has taken the job on until his return after being selected there for last weekend’s match against the Warriors and the Good Friday clash with Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.
"When Seibs was still here I was sort of on the fringe and not really looking to get into first grade, which was hard," Turner said.
"That was hard for me and hard for my family but I sort of stuck through it and then when Wayne came he said ‘if you go out and do your job you are going to get picked’.
"I feel like I have done that for the first couple of weeks and Wayne has put that confidence in me by picking me in the side. I am not naturally a centre but he’s put that confidence in me to go out there and play centre because he knows I will get the job done and I just want to pay him back for that confidence."
Turner has had little experience as a centre and did not train to play in there during the pre-season but he is pleased by the faith Bennett has shown in him.
After the 13-12 loss to Manly in round four, Bennett decided he needed to stiffen up the left-edge defence and chose Turner to play inside winger Campbell Graham.
"All he said was ‘I know you can do the job, all you need is that confidence. Go out there and play strong, defensively I know you are good’," Turner recalls of his brief conversation with Bennett about the positional switch.
With Inglis now having made his decision to retire, Turner plans to seek advice from the former Rabbitohs captain, who played most of his 32 Origins for Queensland and 39 Tests for Australia at left centre.
"I didn’t know I was going to be a centre this year but I am going to learn off Greg a lot," he said.
"I am going to have those little one on one talks and he is going to teach me a lot. He is probably one of the best to play this position so why not learn off him.
"He’s been there done that. In pre-season his body didn’t really allow him to get on the field and train, which has led to him retiring, but he has really taken on that mentorship role with the boys.
"I know the young boys have really learned a lot off him coming through and all the older boys can learn a lot off him too. He has done everything in the game, he’s won premierships, he has played for Australia and Queensland so I’m sure everyone can learn something off him.
"It’s good to know he is still around the club to help us out like that. I debuted in 2014 with him and his influence on the field was second to none. We are going to miss him on the field but I know he is going to be doing what he can to help us be the best we can."